Weta Workshop launches inquiry after employee alleges sexism, sexual harassment by manager

Weta Workshop says it's taking the allegations seriously.
Weta Workshop says it's taking the allegations seriously. Photo credit: Flickr / Jeff Hitchcock

Warning: This article discusses sexual harassment.

Weta Workshop has launched an independent review after an employee claimed she was subjected to sexism and sexual harassment.

Layna Lazar, a 3D artist at the award-winning special effects company in Wellington, says her male manager treated her inappropriately while working on a costume design project for 2017 film Saban's Power Rangers.

Lazar alleges he asked if she was "making something out of nothing" after she told him a male colleague had inappropriately touched her rear while she was working. Lazar says a short time after this incident, she was told there was "no more work" for her.

She also claims her manager made frequent comments about how she looked, made remarks about women's bodies around her and "constantly" sent her texts, all of which made her feel uncomfortable.

He's also alleged to have exhibited sexist behaviour. Lazar says he treated her differently to other team members working on the project - all of whom were male - by "constantly" making her stay late and closely monitored what she was doing at work.

Lazar's partner Jon Troy Nickel, who worked in another department at Weta Workshop at the same time as she was employed there, says he left just months later as a result of the manager's treatment of her.

The accused manager has not responded to Newshub's requests for comment.

However Weta Workshop general manager David Wilks told Newshub the company is taking the issues raised by Lazar "extremely seriously".

"For this reason we are engaging an independent reviewer to undertake an inquiry into the issues raised. The terms of reference for this inquiry are being finalised," he said.

"Everyone who comes to work at Weta Workshop must feel safe. We aspire to have an environment that is diverse, inclusive and supportive, and one in which crew members can feel safe raising any concerns or issues.

"At this stage, it is not appropriate to make any further comment."

Weta Workshop is best-known for its work on Sir Peter Jackson-directed movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The company has won five Oscars and four BAFTAs overall, and its owner Sir Richard Taylor was in 2012 named New Zealander of the Year.

Lazar now runs a business with Nickel making collectible premium figurines. She also has more than 18,000 followers on Twitch, a platform she uses to post videos of her playing video games.

Lazar appears to have made the allegations in response to a wave of sexism and sexual harassment allegations sweeping the gaming industry. Twitch on Wednesday (NZ time) said it would be investigating misconduct.

Lazar has not responded to Newshub's request for an interview.

Need to talk? You can contact 'Safe to talk' National Sexual Harm Helpline:

Calling: 0800 044 334

Texting: 4334

Emailing: support@safetotalk.nz

Live webchat on www.safetotalk.nz which also has a range of resources and information about sexual harm.