UPDATE: According to CBC, the $15M lawsuit against carpenter Natasha Fritz has been dropped. The move came hours after the CBC published its story on the legal battle. On Tuesday afternoon, The Construction Life host Manny Neves send an email to CBC that stated that the podcast “did not do enough to make it clear that sexual harassment of any kind is not acceptable.”
There’s a bit of drama on the construction scene, with a high-profile battle that’s inspiring an important conversation in the industry and beyond.
As CBC reports, the 145th episode of popular Toronto-based podcast The Construction Life, posted on May 8, host Manny Neves and reoccurring guest Jim Caruk spoke with a plumber named Danny.
The topic of conversation was catcalling – something many have stereotypically associated with construction workers for decades – along with other completely inappropriate ways to get a woman’s attention.
What ensued was a conversation that was anything but progressive.
"Today things are different. Like, if you see a sexy woman on the street when we were 20 years old, you whistle. Today you even look at them, you got the cops behind you, they're charging you. It's the truth. It's ridiculous what's going on today," says Danny.
"I'd still whistle," Caruk responds.
"Yeah, but ...," someone says.
Then, Neves asks: "You'd still whistle?"
"I'd still whistle," says Caruk.
"I'd probably put my hand out and ya know, try to reach [inaudible]," Danny adds.
Laughter ensues. Someone says, "I wouldn't ...," before becoming inaudible.
Classy, right? It didn’t take long for a complaint to roll in. Natasha Fritz, the female owner of Natural Carpentry, was understandably offended by the chat of her fellow industry professionals and let the podcast creators know it.
According to CBC, Fritz sent Neves a direct message on Instagram asking to be on the show (she had appeared as a guest in the past) to explain why they were offensive. Neves agreed, writing: "love to have you on the show and discuss this."
As CBC reports, Neves and Caruk cancelled a few times, then "decided against recording a show about sexual harassment."
The company apologized to Fritz via email, stating, "The Construction Life podcast has never been about offending anyone but if someone does bring up an issue we will listen, review the concerns and address it. That being said our show might not be for everyone."
Neves asked Fritz to participate in a conference call in the coming weeks, but Fritz wasn’t interested in entertaining that idea by this point.
The section was edited out of the episode on May 14. However, some comments on harassment remain in the episode. For example, Neves says, "Someone told me in my earlier years that the difference between sexual harassment and flirting is if you find the other person attractive.”
"Am I gonna upset a bunch of people now?"
An apology and a half-heartedly edited episode wasn’t enough for Fritz. She took to social media to highlight an edited exchange of the conversation. In the post, the men’s comments are posted alongside statistics about sexual harassment and sexual assault. The audio repeats Caruk’s “I’d still whistle” chime-in, as well as the men’s laughter.
“These are the types of conversations that are keeping our industry stuck in the past,” she writes. Not surprisingly, a flood of comments quickly began to roll in that were in support of Fritz. At time of writing, the post has been viewed 10,259 times.
Neves, Caruk and the company Candelaria Pictures Corporation are now suing Fritz for a total of $15,250,000. The lawsuit claims that Fitz’s social media post and the subsequent backlash harmed their reputations, business, and mental and physical well-being. It argues that "perspectives and opinions voiced by guests" on the podcast do not reflect the views of its creators.
The men say Fritz’s post was designed to "manipulate the narrative” and point to her use of hashtags #misogynymondays, #sexualharassment, #didimissthejoke and #itsnotfunny.
It also alleges that – one day after receiving a cease-and-desist letter – Fritz said she would only remove the posts (which remain) if the men issued a public apology. The plaintiffs state that this is the first time Ms. Fritz ever made such a demand and that such a demand is unreasonable in the circumstance.
It seems that move could have created an even larger (and potentially pricier) issue for both sides involved, as the damning conversation picks up traction with each new view and comment on the post.