The Academy Ignored Its Legal Responsibility In The 'Slap' Fiasco
U.S. law says employers have a duty to protect employees.
Note: The Academy on 4/8/22 said: “During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short…” Will Smith, who had already resigned, was banned from attending the award show for 10 years.
There is little doubt about what the response would have been if the perpetrator of the infamous slap at the Academy Awards was a janitor instead of a rich and world famous actor.
A janitor would be restrained and expelled.
Will Smith, the actor, was allowed to slowly climb the stairs to the stage and then physically assault Rock in front of millions of viewers. Smith was then allowed to accept an Academy Award and dance the night away, while holding a champagne glass.
The Academy Awards is an employer and Chris Rock was its employee. Every worker is entitled to a safe workplace under federal law. The Academy Awards not only failed to provide a safe workplace for Rock but did nothing after Rock was assaulted.
The Academy’s Ignored Its Responsiblity
Rock was given the opportunity to file criminal charges against Smith by Los Angeles police who were serving as security at the event. He was likely in a state of shock at the time. He allegedly declined.
But Rock’s alleged decision did not alleviate the Academy’s responsibilty to act.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 provides that all employers have a “separate” responsibility to assure that workers have “safe and healtful working conditions.” Workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”
Why didn’t the Academy do something?
Smith is rich and famous. He is an African American male icon who got the benefit of class and privilege. Not only from the Academy but also from his peers, who gave him a standing ovation and hugs.
It was another story for Chris Rock, who was attacked and humiliated.
America’s Class Problem
We have a class problem in the United States and it was on display for the entire world to see at the March 27 Academy Awards.
The ‘Slap’ fiasco was a small scale example of a major problem that is completely unackowledged and unaddressed.
I recently read the book, Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story by Julie K. Brown. Epstein was a pedophile who used influence and money to avoid accountabilty for decades of raping and abusing girls as young as age 14. Epstein committed suicide under suspicious circumstances in a New York jail in 2019. After prosecuting one person, Ghislaine Maxwell, the government seems to have lost interest in the case.
This week, I saw the documentary, The Crime of the Century by Alex Gibney, about the Sackler Family, who successfully used “influence campaigns” in Congress to prevent the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from threatening its cash cow, Purdue Pharma's OxyContin. Nevermind that millions were addicted and died as a result of the false marketing of OxyContin. By the way, why is U.S. Sen. Masha Blackburn, R-TN, still a Senator?
It’s not clear whether the Academy had any recourse to prosecute Smith. Maybe not. But it surely had a duty to to protect Rock and then to immediately restrain and expel his attacker.
The Academy, like the America’s justice system, has a double standard. If you’re rich and powerful, you are treated better. Much better.
Let’s just hope that Chris Rock doesn’t let them get away with it.
Most employers would have called the police after Will Smith’s violent attack on Chris Rock.