Bryan Singer, well known as the director of X-Men, was recently fired from his new movie Bohemian Rhapsody. The termination occurred after his unexplained disappearance from the set. 20th Century Fox terminated Singer after he went missing citing unexpected unavailability and other charges of unprofessional behavior – specifically unprofessional behavior towards actor Rami Malek on the set.
Now Singer is claiming that his unexplained disappearance was due to the fact that he needed to care for a “gravely ill” parent and that when he tried to get the time off, Fox refused. According to Singer’s statement, there were fewer than three weeks to shoot remaining and he asked Fox for time off to deal with a parent’s pressing health matters in the United States. He noted that the experience was very taxing and took a serious toll on his own health. According to Singer, Fox refused the time off request and terminated his employment as director. Singer claims that he wanted nothing more than to finish the project as planned, but that events were out of his control and he was forced to put his health and the health of loved ones before his dedication to honoring the legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen through the making of Bohemian Rhapsody.
As there has been a lot of focus on sexual misconduct in connection with Hollywood lately, it is no surprise that attention is being drawn to allegations of sexual misconduct connected to Singer’s current circumstances. They are not the first. These types of accusations have followed Singer throughout his career. Also indicating a problem is the fact that Singer’s long-time publicist recently dropped him as a client – without offering any explanation for the surprising move. If sexual misconduct charges are officially thrown at Singer, being fired from a movie will be the very least of his troubles.
Yet Singer’s claims could also be true. It’s possible that he was fired after taking a brief break to care for an ill parent and get his own health in order. If that’s the case, he could have a case of wrongful termination.
According to California labor law, employees can be rightfully terminated for unexplained absences or being unprofessional/clashing with co-workers. They cannot, however, be rightfully terminated due to a medical leave or a disability.
In accordance with the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, an employee is provided 12 weeks unpaid leave when an immediate family member has a serious health condition. When the employee wishes to return to work (within the specified time frame) the employer must give their job back.
Considering Singer’s commonly known reputation, it’s likely that Fox’s version of events leading up to his termination are accurate. In fact, it has previously been reported that Fox put certain “parameters” in place prior to securing Singer for his role in the movie – one of which was to have a Directors Guild of America representative on set to monitor filming. Singer was also warned prior to being brought on to the project that they would not tolerate inappropriate/unprofessional activities from him during filming.
If you aren’t sure whether your current situation qualifies as wrongful termination, please get in touch with an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.