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Court clears way for suit against SAG

September 27, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

In a setback for the Screen Actors Guild, a federal appeals court Wednesday cleared the path for a former employee to pursue a wrongful termination case against the union.

The case was brought by Patricia Heisser Metoyer, an affirmative action administrator for the union who was fired in May 2001 after an audit found she had authorized payment of more than $30,000 in grant funds to friends, business partners and her husband's production company.

But Metoyer contended that her bosses retaliated against her after she brought to light racial discrimination complaints from guild staff, questioned the handling of affirmative action grants and confronted managers over an allegedly fraudulent report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A district court ruling dismissed her claims. Metoyer then took her case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided 2 to 1 to allow two of her three claims to proceed to trial.

"It had to be concluded that Metoyer raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether the guild was more likely than not motivated by discrimination in its decision to terminate her," according to the majority opinion.

SAG General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland called the majority decision "wrongly decided on both the facts and the law" and said Metoyer's allegations were "simply untrue." The union is weighing an appeal.

The suit also names John McGuire, an advisor in the union, and Leonard Chassman, a former guild employee. Neither could be reached for comment.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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