A veteran Hollywood producer is suing a production company, alleging she found herself marginalized by male colleagues and wrongfully fired earlier this year for complaining about a “toxic work culture.”
Jennifer Ducker’s Van Nuys Superior Court lawsuit against INE Entertainment LLC alleges retaliatory termination, gender discrimination, breach of contract and failure to timely pay final wages upon resignation.
Ducker seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A representative for the Los Angeles-based production company did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Oct. 21.
According to the suit, Mark Koops, the company’s managing partner and a co-defendant in the suit, and his “male entourage” have created a “toxic work culture normalizing male favoritism while marginalizing female employees.”
Under Koops’ leadership, the company’s management maintains the status quo by punishing anyone who tries to fight the system, Ducker alleges, resulting in what her suit maintains are rampant labor law violations.
Ducker, with more than 20 years of experience in television show production, was hired in August 2021 by INE as the executive producer of the company’s new show, “Race for Bigfoot,” according to the suit, which states her employment ended in March.
Despite a smooth start largely attributable to Ducker’s ability to quickly put together a production crew, performing a location scout in Oklahoma and writing an eight-episode script, matters “quickly derailed,” the suit states.
“As the only female in the production crew, Ms. Ducker soon found herself marginalized by her male colleagues and executives,” the suit states.
Jeff Jenkins, the show’s field producer, worked directly with Ducker, but kept a close relationship with Koops and other key decision makers of the company, the suit states.
Jenkins, also a co-defendant in the suit, scheduled private meetings with Koops and excluded Ducker from production-related decision making even though she was the executive producer, the suit states. She alleges the “overt acts of male favoritism … clearly enabled Jenkins.”
When Ducker refused to comply with his order to replace a crew member with someone of his choosing, Jenkins began harassing her with aggressive phone calls and derogatory insults, telling her she did not “call the shots” and had “no skin in the game,” allegedly echoing management’s general hostility toward female producers, the suit states.
“These degrading remarks would not have been made to a male superior,” the suit alleges.
After Ducker complained about Jenkins, management, appearing more concerned about appeasing Jenkins than disciplining him, retaliated by firing her within 24 hours, the suit states.
In an email, Koops blamed Ducker for “making a fuss” and told her she was being let go because “too much water has crashed over this bridge … we are at a point of no return,” the suit states.
According to the suit, INE’s alleged treatment of Ducker is “apparently” part of a “pervasive pattern of gender discrimination.” The suit further alleges that another female producer who was hired by INE to replace Ducker also received similar treatment and was gone after a few weeks.
A few days after her firing, Ducker received an INE deal memo that disclaimed any employment relationship between the parties despite the parties’ written agreement for seven months work, according to the suit, which further states that the company’s “poorly disguised bait-and-switch does not relieve INE of any obligation or duty.”
Ducker would not have agreed to work for INE absent a fixed-term duration of her contract and she declined other job offers that did not provide such security, the suit states.
Ducker has suffered emotional distress, loss of income and harm to reputation since her firing, the suit states.