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'Criminal Minds' producers settle sexual harassment lawsuit for $3 million

The lawsuit alleged that the show's director of photography “subjected male crew members to ... unwanted touching and caressing, and made unwelcome and threatening comments."
"Criminal Minds" on CBS.
"Criminal Minds" on CBS.Michael Yarish / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Studios

The production company behind the CBS police procedural "Criminal Minds" has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the state of California on behalf of crew members who allege they were sexually harassed by the show's director of photography and then retaliated against for complaining, the state announced.

The California Civil Rights Department sued the Disney-owned production unit ABC Signature and other people in May 2020, alleging that they violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Ralph Civil Rights Act and a state law that bars sexual harassment in business or professional relationships.

The lawsuit alleged that, for 14 seasons of "Criminal Minds," the director of photography "subjected male crew members to sexual harassment, including unwanted touching and caressing, and made unwelcome and threatening comments," the Civil Rights Department said in the news release announcing the settlement last week.

"The production companies and producers ignored harassment on set, failed to act despite multiple complaints, and fired crew members for complaining about the harassment," the release added. The Civil Rights Department went on to investigate the claims.

In a statement, the department's director, Kevin Kish, hailed the crew members who "courageously came forward to assert their right to making a living free from sexual harassment."

"No matter the industry, workplace setting, or gender of the employees, companies must address credible complaints of harassment and retaliation and take action against harassers," Kish said.

The Civil Rights Department said ABC Signature, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co., will pay $3 million to about 12 people. The production company will also take steps to prevent harassment, including efforts to train production and human resources employees.

NBC News has asked Disney for comment.

"Criminal Minds" ran for 15 seasons on CBS before it moved over to the Paramount+ streaming service last month under the new title "Criminal Minds: Evolution." The popular series has spawned two short-lived CBS spinoff shows, "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior" and "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders."

In the summer of 2016, former "Criminal Minds" star Thomas Gibson was fired from the program days after he was suspended for a reported altercation with a producer during filming.