So the first time I met with the head of HR at the network that airs At Home with Maya to discuss my situation – I was being sexually harassed by a woman who, when I turned her down, accused me of harassing her – they called it a ‘meeting’ and not a ‘hearing’ and there was no need for lawyers. It was just me telling my story with Maya in the office for moral support.
We didn’t hear anything about it for a almost a month, which is a long time to be sitting under a sword of Damocles…and, well, like Meemaw says, ‘no news is no news.’ It certainly wasn’t good news, since, when Maya called me into her office about a week ago, it was to tell me that there was going to be a formal hearing. The HR woman we had the ‘meeting’ with didn’t know what to decide (that means she didn’t know who to believe), so she passed it on to higher-ups at the network…and now (finally) it was going to be an executive vice president who would decide if I could keep my job and living situation.
The hearing – and now they were calling it that – was scheduled for the following Wednesday. And the first thing Maya said after telling me that there was going to be a hearing was:
“You’re going to need a lawyer, Hunter. I’m going to call Michelle right now.”
Sometimes it’s good to be a movie star. This was probably one of those times, since Maya didn’t have to wait to get Michelle on the phone. All she had to say was “Maya Bedrossian calling” and the person who answered the phone put her straight through. I could tell Maya had gotten used to that kind of treatment, but I was impressed.
Maya explained the situation to Michelle pretty quickly. I guess there isn’t all that much to explain. Michelle said something, and Maya said “he gets the boys at 3:15, so he can be there at…is 4:30 alright?” Maya nodded some and said “I’ll tell him. Thanks, Michelle. If anyone can help us, you can.” It was good to know that Maya was so behind me that she was talking about ‘us’ – but I didn’t like the “if anyone can help us” part.
Maya explained that Michelle was going to see me at the end of the day, and that I should head over to her office as soon as I’d gotten the boys. It was my afternoon to work with Jacob on baseball, and I always look forward to that, but I reckon seeing the lawyer so I can hold onto my job was more important. The boys aren’t as young as they were when I first started working for the Sharpmans, and I think that they can be trusted to take care of themselves one afternoon.
So I put on my lawyer clothes (which, as I noticed when I put them on when we went to see Michelle the first time about the tell-all book In Hell with Maya, were very much like my church clothes) and, after getting the boys (Matteo: “how come you’re all dressed up?” – and I didn’t know what to answer), I got into the shitbox and drove down the 110 to Downtown LA. Of course traffic was a nightmare once we got past Dodger Stadium (at least there wasn’t a home game that day) and I was late, and then I was nervous about being late, but, when I did get to the lawyers’ office at 4:45 and I apologized about the traffic, no one said anything. So I reckon maybe people expect you to be late when you have to deal with Downtown traffic.
Instead of the conference room where I met with Michele, Robert and Maya, I got shown into Michelle’s office, which had a great view out its one window and made me wonder how much this was costing Maya.
“Sit down, Hunter,” Michelle said after she’d shaken my hand. “Is it okay if Matt sits in on this? He’s the associate who sat in on our meeting about the book last year.” I didn’t know his name, but he was very cool then, when he explained a bunch of things to me that I didn’t know about, since that was my first visit to a lawyer’s office.
“Sure,” I said.
So Michelle picked up her phone and said something like “send Matt in, could you?”. She started right in before he could get here.
“So you’re in one gigantic mess, it seems.”
She smiled a little, I reckon to keep me from feeling totally ill at ease, but she was also serious.
I just nodded.
“The biggest question I have is why didn’t you say something sooner? According to Maya’s version of the story, the woman started harassing you a few weeks before you went to her apartment to tell her to lay off.”
“Because I thought it would take care of itself,” I said, “and…well…I was embarrassed. And afraid what people would think, I reckon.”
“That’s actually very common in sexual harassment cases,” Michelle said. “I’ve worked on quite a few of them, although,” she shrugged, “never where the person being harassed is a man.”
That’s when Matt knocked on the door and came in. He was a little less nerdy than before, and looked a little less uncomfortable in his buttoned-up collar. Michelle motioned for him to sit down, and we shook hands once he had taken the seat next to me.
“I read your notes from your conversation with Mrs. Sharpman,” Matt said to Michelle, “so I’m up to speed.” He looked at me. “This must be really tough for you.”
“You can’t believe it,” I said. “Being falsely accused of something sucks – but when the person who accused you is the one who did what she said you did…well… Meemaw always said my looks would get me in trouble one of these days.” I laughed a little thinking of Meemaw. “I almost made it to 30 without something like this happening.”
“The situation is this,” Michelle then said, “there’s going to be a hearing with the network vice president acting as judge. The woman you spoke to at HR decided she couldn’t decide between your story and the story of your accuser, and this is how things escalate over there. A hearing with lawyers is a lot of drama, but they’re TV people and I guess they like drama. But we do want to avoid publicity. Maya doesn’t want to have to go into it on the show. You’ve got a squeaky clean image and you take care of children…viewers might object if they found out that a sexual harasser is teaching Matteo and Jacob how to play baseball.”
“Shit,” I said.
“The good part is that the network does have a gag order in place for all sexual harassment complaints. The network isn’t also entirely against you: you have to remember that you’ve become a big part of the show, and you have a lot of fans. Even if they don’t know that you’re in some serious hot water, they’re still going to want to see you on At Home with Maya. You’re good for ratings, and ratings are what the network is after. So they have a vested interest in you. Probably more of a vested interest than they do in what’s-her-name. Middle-level executives are much easier to find than very good-looking pool boys with squeaky-clean southern-fried all-American charm.”
I felt myself blushing. All I wanted was for the people at the network to be fair…now I realized fair might not have anything to do about it and it was going to boil down to believing the woman vs. the value to the show of me, my abs and my Instagram followers. I guess I should be super grateful to Destiny for taking such good care of the followers she built up for me.
“They’re not going to depose anyone or be that formal about it, but there will be lawyers present at the hearing. I don’t think we’re going to be allowed to cross-examine, but it’s still going to feel like you’re in court.
“The network wants a written statement. Don’t worry,” Michelle added, maybe not knowing that I have a lot of experience writing about what’s happening in my life, “we’ll take the statement here. We’ll have a stenographer take down the story. Matt will look after you as soon as we’re done here.”
She talked some more about the legal stuff involved, and I tried to pay attention, but I was getting really depressed. I know I’ve said it before, but I depend a whole lot on being on TV. It’s not the fame or anything like that, although Joyce does keep reminding me that fame can be a valuable commodity. It’s that the show is more than just my job: it’s my living situation as well. I’ve also grown super attached to the boys, and even Gechitzik…and the alternative is being out in the street with no job prospects. My TV career would certainly be over, and, while I’m not super attached to being on the TV, it’s what I do at this point in my life. I probably wouldn’t even be able to get a job cleaning pools. In other words, practically my whole life could collapse in a second if this network vice president believes her instead of me.