A judge has stayed a lawsuit brought against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association by a member of the organization who alleges he was subjected to disparate treatment because of his Muslim faith and Palestinian origin because the organization is appealing an earlier ruling that was mostly favorable to the plaintiff.
In December, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern heard arguments on the HFPA’s anti-SLAPP motion in the case brought by plaintiff Husam “Sam” Asi, took the case under submission and dismissed only Asi’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Stern ruled Asi can move forward with his claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, his contractual claims and his allegation for violation of the state Business and Professions Code, all of which the HFPA had alleged targeted speech and other activity protected by the federal and California constitutions and therefore should be dismissed.
The HFPA filed an appeal on Feb. 1, so on Thursday the judge put the case on hold and set a status conference for Oct. 9.
The state’s anti-SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — law is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
Asi became an HFPA member in 2010. His suit was filed May 11, three months after the HFPA, the group behind the Golden Globes, put the plaintiff on probation amid claims of sexual misconduct.
Asi alleges the HFPA sent out a news release stating that he was being placed on probation without first conducting an investigation or notifying him, both in violation of the organization’s confidentiality rules.
“Dr. Asi was subjected to several instances of discriminatory conduct by HFPA,” the suit states. “These instances were not investigated. In failing to investigate or to take other corrective action, HFPA breached its own bylaws and code of conduct.”
Asi also alleges he himself was subjected to sexual harassment that also was not investigated by the HFPA, citing as an example the actions of a female HFPA board member who allegedly grabbed the plaintiff’s buttocks more than once in front of several news reporters at different news conferences during the spring of 2018 and invited the plaintiff to her house to teach him how to do “good sex.”
Asi, who is Muslim and of Palestinian origin, also alleges HFPA leadership repeatedly called him a “terrorist” and an “angry Arab.”