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Suit accuses NM union leader of sexual harassment

 

Editor’s note: An earlier online version of this story contained a quote about an improper request made during the local filming of a courtroom scene. That quote was deleted after an individual informed the Journal he was the person referred to in the quote, and he denied making any such comment.

One of New Mexico’s most prominent union leaders has been accused of harassment and discrimination by a former employee, who also alleges that the state’s largest film industry union abetted his behavior.

Jon Hendry, the president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor and a business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480, is the subject of a lawsuit filed Tuesday in state District Court in Santa Fe . In it, Christa Valdez, who was hired by IATSE as a public relations representative, accuses Hendry of harassing and intimidating her and then orchestrating her termination when she rejected his advances. Valdez also names IATSE as a party in the lawsuit.

In an email to the Journal, Hendry said he was unaware of the lawsuit and directed further questions to IATSE’s attorney, Robert Giolito. Giolito said the union does not comment on current litigation.

The attorney representing Valdez, Trent Howell, declined a request for comment.

In the lawsuit, Valdez accuses Hendry of targeting her with “sexual propositions and inappropriate conditions to maintain employment.” In one example provided in the filings, Valdez claims Hendry sent her a text on Aug. 30, 2016 that said, “Sorry. Could you send me a pic of your naked, sweaty, skinny body. At least one of us will feel much better.” Valdez also alleges that Hendry grabbed her buttocks and frequently bragged about ruining the careers of people in the industry who crossed him, according to the complaint.

Valdez argues that threat came to fruition when she was terminated last summer under explanations she claims changed multiple times. After winning a public relations contract with a casting company, Valdez alleges she was let go a few days later because Hendry had told the company it would not be able to work on IATSE-related projects if they continued to work with Valdez.

The lawsuit also alleges that at least two local IATSE leaders were aware of similar complaints against Hendry and terminated her employment in part because she rejected Hendry’s advances. Valdez is seeking damages against both Hendry and IATSE and is also requesting a trial by jury.

The lawsuit comes as Hollywood continues to grapple with allegations and admissions of harassment throughout the industry, many of the stories emerging in the wake of the “#MeToo” movement.

Randy Moore, an at-large board member with the local union, recently wrote a Facebook post telling union members to contact the international organization’s West Coast office if they had concerns about “harassing texts, unwelcome pictures of body parts, and offers of trading sex for work.” Moore told the Journal he had not seen the lawsuit and was not familiar with the allegations against Hendry.

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