Actress Eliza Dushku spoke out during a congressional hearing about being sexually harassed in the workplace while appearing on the CBS TV show Bull then being fired within 24 hours of complaining.
On Tuesday, Dushku testified to the House Judiciary Committee about suffering "near-constant sexual harassment" and being "fired in silence when I attempted to address it."
In 2018, The 40-year-old actress claimed she was written off the show as a retaliation tactic after she accused costar Michael Weatherly of harassment on the set of Bull.
She had been unable to publicly discuss the case because of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) after CBS agreed to pay Dushku $9.5 million to buy her out of her contract.
Speaking before Congress, Dushku was able to testify outside her non-disclosure agreement.
"In 2017, I was aggressively pursued by CBS to become a co-lead in a show called 'Bull,'" she began.
"I was told that the role would be a six-year commitment to play a smart, strong leading lady — a competent, high-powered lawyer meant to counter balance the existing male lead, and that the role had been written specifically with me in mind."
However, during her first week on the job, Dushku claimed she was subjected to "crude, sexualized and lewd verbal assaults," adding she endured "near-constant sexual harassment" from Weatherly.
Dushku claimed Weatherly called her "legs" and would "smell me and leeringly look me up and down."
"Off script, in front of about 100 crew members and cast members, he once said that he would take me to his 'rape' van and use lube and long phallic things on me and take me over his knee and spank me like a little girl."
She also claimed Weatherly talked about his sperm and how they were "powerful swimmers."
The actress clarified "These were not lines in the script."
"They were incessant and demeaning and directed at me in the middle of what was supposed to be a professional workplace."
She also recalled finishing an intense courtroom monologue she put a lot of work into preparing and hearing Weatherly shouting that he and his buddy wanted to engage in a threesome with her.
They "began mock penis jousting while the camera was still rolling," she said.
"Then, as I walked off to my coffee break between scenes, a random male crew member sidled up to me at the food service table and whispered, 'I am with "Bull." I want to have a threesome with you too, Eliza.'"
She further claimed she confronted Weatherly about the lewd comments and asked him to be an "ally on set" and to "tone down some of the sexualized comments directed at me, especially since he set the tone at the workplace."
His alleged response was:
"No one is more respectful of women than me. I grew up with sisters."
Dushku later learned 40 minutes after their exchange, Weatherly had texted the head of CBS Studios saying his costar had a "humor deficit" and he didn't want her on the show.
She was fired the next day, even though the studio head thought Dushku was "great and made the show better."
The actress said she was "silenced" and forced into arbitration when seeking legal action because of a mandatory arbitration clause in her contract–which she said she didn't know existed.
"I've worked as an actress since I was a child and signed countless contracts negotiated on my behalf, but never understood that there were mandatory arbitration clauses that would be used to keep what had happened to me a secret and would protect CBS and the sexual harassment perpetrator, who had blatantly retaliated against me for trying to stop the harassment in my workplace."
"I was shocked to learn that I signed away my rights to a public forum before taking a job," she further added.
"Who would ever think up such a clause? Who were these clauses meant to favor and protect? It suddenly became very clear: Not me."
Her $9.5 million settlement approximated what she was meant to earn had she stayed on the show.
However, she said the amount does not make up for neither being unable to have her day in court, nor her compromised reputation as the actress "who was paid off for allegedly being sexually harassed on a TV series."
"This was not the outcome I desired or ever expected, but because of binding arbitration there will never be real justice for me and for countless other victims of sexual harassment and assault."
Tuesday's hearing was titled, "Silenced: How Forced Arbitration Keeps Victims of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in the Shadows."
It was held for lawmakers examining new legislation to eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases.
In 2018, Weatherly addressed the accusations leveled against him.
He told the New York Times:
"During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script. When Eliza told me that she wasn't comfortable with my language and attempt at humor, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologized."
"After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza."
However, Weatherly has publicly denied having anything to do with Dushku being written off the show.
According to CNN, CBS issued a statement around the time of the agreement, which read:
"The allegations in Ms. Dushku's claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done."
"The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time."