Universal Studios

Performers Sue Universal Studios, Complain Guests Assaulted Them

Three employees of Universal Studios Hollywood are suing the company, alleging they were assaulted by patrons while working in the "Walking Dead" attraction and that management did not do enough after they complained.

Melinda Molenda, Lisa Molenda and Josiah Steele are the plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court suit that alleges assault and battery, sexual harassment and failure to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.

"Universal actually creates a volatile situation in which employees and guests are placed in dark, loud, closed, confrontational hallways and mazes in which the guests, often intoxicated by alcohol sold at the park, feel free to harass and assault the employees," the suit states.

Universal's website promotes the "Walking Dead" attraction by telling guests ,"Prepare to fight for survival in a fully immersive journey … as you battle your way through nightmarish, iconic landscapes," according to the complaint.

A representative for Universal Studios issued a statement Thursday regarding the suit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

"We don't comment on pending litigation, but the safety and security of our employees and guests is always our top priority," the statement read.

The suit filed Tuesday describes several incidents in 2018 and 2019 when male visitors groped one of the breasts of Melinda Molenda, a 10-year Universal Studios employee.


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Last May 13, a man grabbed one of her breasts three times before she could push his hand away, according to the suit, which says he "clearly intended the act and did not apologize."

After another visitor grabbed both of her breasts on a subsequent date, she complained to the show control person, who asked, "What do you want me to do?," according to the suit.

She also reported each incident to her supervisors, according to the complaint, which says that four months later, a guest spat in her eye.

Visitors also groped or pinched Lisa Molenda's breasts, threw soda in one of her eyes and hit her in one temple so hard she became dizzy, the suit states.

The visitor who hit her was not ejected, according to the suit, which also alleges that one patron hit her so hard in the face that she still has "clicking and cracking" in her jaw.

"Another guest slapped Lisa's face through the cage, which caused the sharp plastic in the eyes of the mask to go into Lisa's eye," the suit says. "Lisa reported it to the manager, who told Lisa it was her fault."

Lisa Molenda was also a longtime Universal Studios employee, according to the suit.

Last July 4, a patron hit Steele so hard he was hospitalized, the suit states.

When Steele reported what happened to management, he was told, "Most performers don't press charges," the suit alleges.

The complaint also details alleged attacks on other Universal Studios employees who are not plaintiffs, including one who said a guest grabbed one of her wrists, yanked her arm and then twisted it against the cage.

The show controller did not report what happened, telling the employee, "It wouldn't do anything," the suit alleges.

Universal Studios is owned by NBCUniversal, the same parent company as NBC4.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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