Sacked singer sues production firm over dismissed #metoo claims

Finnish vocalist Tomi Metsäketo is demanding compensation from ACE-Production for lost wages after he was summarily fired from a production of the musical “Mamma Mia!” when claims emerged on social media linking him to sexual harassment.

In a lawsuit filed this week Metsäketo is claiming 30,000 euros in damages saying that his employment was unfairly terminated. He claims he suffered more than 21,000 euros in lost wages.

Last week four women were convicted of slander by Helsinki District Court over a series of social media posts they made about Metsäketo. The court found the women had falsely accused the singer of sexual harassment and being a serial rapist and that none of the women who made the accusations had personal contact with the singer.

In the online discussions, the women had discussed Metsäketo at length in a private Facebook group, a chat that began on 12 October, 2017. Three days later one of the defendants made the false accusation the singer had raped women, saying he was a serial rapist with dozens of victims.

Just ten days later, on 25 October, the head of theatre production firm ACE-Production, Johan Storgård issued a press release announcing Metsäketo’s dismissal, saying that he no longer could continue in his role as one of the leads in the musical.

In the press release, Storgård said the production has a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of harassment, saying “we hope Tomi finds the strength to turn his life around.”

According to Metsäketo, last week’s district court ruling shows that the production company’s decision to fire him was based solely on the accusations made on social media. The singer was not suspected or being prosecuted for harassment which took place during the production of the show.

Storgård declined to be interviewed about the lawsuit, saying that a legal process is in motion.

According to the lawsuit, Metsäketo claims Storgård had dismissed him verbally when they met at a restaurant. He claims Storgård told him he was no longer suitable for the role he was hired to do, saying there was a danger all of the negative comments on social media about him that autumn could have a damaging effect on ticket sales.

The “Mamma Mia!” production continued without the singer in 2018.

Metsäketo claims that he’s lost other work opportunities due to the situation, saying he’d lost out on about 90 percent of the employment he expected to get since the accusations surfaced last autumn.

Workers’ rights lawyer Max Lindholm would not take a position on Metsäketo’s situation and lawsuit, but said that dismissing a worker based solely on accusations made on the internet that later turned out to be false is problematic.

“If an employee is accused of sexual harassment, employers have to react; otherwise they are breaking the law. Under normal circumstances the employer should provide an opportunity for the [accused] worker to be heard. After that, the employer should verify facts by talking to different sources,” Lindholm said.

“It is difficult in cases of sexual harassment, when it’s one person’s word against another,” he said.