This article was originally posted publicly on my personal Facebook page on August 8th 2017. It was quickly shared by hundreds of people and went viral. Online news sources such as Deadline, Variety, Huffington Post and Vanity Fair ran the story. On August 10th, Jorkle released a public apology, and the management company has since closed. The original Facebook post was flagged and removed from my page on August 24th, so I am posting here for reference.
You know when someone accidentally gets CC’d on an email and it’s awkward for everyone?
As many of you know, March 8, 2017 was International Women’s Day, and many in Los Angeles and around the world banded together to demonstrate the value that women bring to the modern workplace through the movement “A Day Without a Woman.” Women were encouraged to take the day off work and not spend money to help others recognize the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system, while raising awareness that many still are getting lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity. www.womensmarch.com/march
I asked for the day off because I thought this was a great cause. I was working as an assistant at a boutique talent agency. For privacy purposes, let’s call my boss “Jorkle” as that is not a common name for talent managers in Hollywood (Correct me if I’m wrong!) I emailed Jorkle that I would love to spend the day writing, as my career goal is to be a TV Writer, and unfortunately writers’ rooms are very dominantly male, even in 2017. I did not ask to be paid for the day, so it was the equivalent of asking for an unpaid sick day. Pilot season was slowing way down, and things were pretty quiet at work that week so far.
I received this response from Jorkle:
“Are you fucking kidding me. At the end of pilot season. Someone should sew her vagina shut. I’m never hiring a girl ever again.
No bonus for anyone that strikes or leaves early in pilot season. No one is striking in show business we are all against Trump. And women are considered diverse and being shoved in as writer and directors. Zach who is a Jewish male is being pushed out.
Uppity Selfish Cunt. Heather went to work. I’m sure anyone at a casting office or agency would be fired.”
This was meant for my two male coworkers only, but my boss accidentally sent it to the whole team email. Cue the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song.
I then received this thoughtful apology:
“I apologize for venting like a misogynistic faggot. I was letting off steam I didn’t mean to hit reply all. I’m an asshole. If you come back we can play Nazi death camp. You can beat me and put me in the oven. Or feed me cabbage and lock me in the shower. I am truly sorry.”
I wasn’t a big fan of any of this, and responded “I quit.” One of my male coworkers, obviously realizing he would be experiencing “a day without a woman” for the indefinite future and would have to do more work, encouraged me to come back into the office saying, “It was just a joke.” My coworkers had worked there for years and my only guess is that they slowly became desensitized to Jorkle’s behavior to the point where the line of what is normal or acceptable didn’t just blur, it disappeared. Which is sad, because I otherwise liked them. But, I understand the psychological effects a person of power can have on their crew. Look at Helter Skelter. I’m sure those girls who led random victims to Charles Manson to be murdered could also be really fun at a game night playing cards against humanity.
Anyway, the response from Jorkle shouldn’t have surprised me considering my past exchanges with him. He could be kind of terrible. However, sometimes he was actually really cool and funny and nice. He even bought me a really hilarious Jurassic Park Christmas sweater. No one is bad constantly. The point of this article isn’t to humanize Jorkle for you, but that’s the truth, he isn’t all bad. We bonded over our love of Broadway Musicals and had some really good laughs. And that’s why it’s harder to get out of these situations. It is similar to feeling trapped with a physically abusive partner or family member. I’ve also been in that position and it would have been a lot easier to leave quickly if they were only awful. But no one is. That is the truly sad thing about leaving an abusive situation, because you are leaving someone who is sometimes human and good.
Good qualities aside, a majority of the time he was screaming terrific things like the N word at the top of his lungs while describing black clients who were frustrating him. He would call his employees “f***ing retards,” and scream he is never friends with women. Then it would slowly dawn upon him that he maybe took things a little too far, and he would say, “I was just joking.” Knowing that his employee’s are not professional joke judges on Last Comic Standing, he was confident that he had just convinced us that we simply missed the clever and subtle punchline. I put up with the fun filled outbursts for 5 months, because I wanted to have thick skin, be hardworking and most of all, not be a quitter. I told myself the job was temporary and I would be out of there soon and things would get better, much like Annie when she sings “Tomorrow.” Yet something about this behavior affected me to the core, because I’m not a sociopath or an AI.
As one of thousands applying for assistant jobs in writing rooms, I was determined to work my way up by gaining experience at entertainment desk jobs in LA. I figured that I’d have to deal with over the top personalities like Jorkle in the entertainment industry to varying degrees, so I should just get used to it, laugh it off, and let it go until I was offered another job. I was actively interviewing but I didn’t want to quit until I actually had something else lined up, because my personal preference is to be able eat food and live under a roof. But Jorkle’s shenanigans got worse and worse and the emails were the final straw. This was the most personal attack yet and something I would never let someone say to me.
At first I was just going to be on my merry way and let it all go. Good riddance. But it didn’t feel right that I was out of a job and there were no consequences for Jorkle’s inappropriate vernacular. It felt wrong to let another unknowing assistant wander into the position with the possibility that they will also be deemed an uppity selfish c*** who should have her vagina sewn shut. (An equally aggressive insult if the new assistant is a man.)
Over the next few days I received enthusiastic encouragement from my amazing friends to litigate. I wanted to handle matters quickly, privately and professionally through a lawyer who specialized in workplace harassment. My lawyer requested a few months pay from Jorkle as compensation for letting the issue go. For me it wasn’t about getting a big pay out from Jorkle, but since he doesn’t seem to have any remorse or a moral compass, I agreed that losing some money over this was one thing that might make him think twice about behaving in the same manner in the future.
However, Jorkle’s erratic and irresponsible thought processes lead him to make yet another smooth move. He tried calling my bluff by completely ignoring every letter, phone call and email from the lawyer, essentially refusing to settle privately. My lawyer said he had never seen or heard of this happening in all his years practicing as a specialist in hostile work environments. The next step was either to let it go, or take Jorkle to court. If the case is filed and taken to court, the emails become public record. Since the money is not important to me, I decided to skip the trial, and make the emails public with this delightful essay.
This might have happened to me on “A Day Without A Woman” but I think many assistants suffer hostile work environments. Both men and women experience verbal abuse, but are afraid to stand up for themselves. They don’t want to have to be the one to take action. They are willing to put up with things that are absolutely crossing a line because the job will look good on a resume for the next step in their careers, or hope the connections made through the job might be beneficial. I have struggled a lot with sharing this because I’m afraid it will work against me and my career. That is scary to me, and sad that this might be the reality we live in. But it’s worth it to me to say something regardless of the outcome. I’ll be disappointed at myself if I don’t.
Many Hollywood assistants are underpaid and overworked, yet we are more than willing to do everything it takes to pay our dues to reach our goals and dreams. But in return there needs to be a basic level of respect from our bosses. Nothing fancy, just human decency. I don’t want people like Jorkle to get away with whatever behavior they want because they know no one is going to do anything about it. Assistants at management companies, casting offices, networks, and studios are all just trying to keep things running smoothly, and no-one wants to be the one to throw a wrench in things. But sometimes it’s got to be done. Let’s say no to the Jorkles of the world.
Initially I planned to release this anonymously, but the truth is, I stand proudly by everything I’ve written. If someone chooses not to hire me because of this, it will likely save us both from a weird workplace fit. If someone doesn’t want to be my friend because of this I respectfully understand that our differences would probably come between us sooner or later and we should probably spend our time with like minded people. I value and respect who I am and I want to be surrounded by people who value and respect me too.
Please don’t let anyone treat you like this, and to paraphrase the great Mike Birbiglia – If you have to say it was a joke, it wasn’t a good joke.
Plot twist: His name is Michael Einfeld. Writing Jorkle the whole time just made me laugh.
Here are the emails and texts without Michael’s email retracted:
P.S. My Christmas bonus was this lingerie. It made me look like a ham. (Michael is gay so it could be weirder.)
P.P.S I am aware that I have chosen to pursue a bizarre and fun career in Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and everything will be ok for me. It’s incomparably worse for a majority of women in the world. Which is a big reason why I wanted to be a part of making change for them by striking on March 8th.