If Will Smith is to be disciplined by SAG-AFTRA for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, the union’s constitution spells out in great detail how that disciplinary process will play out. SAG-AFTRA covers performers at the Academy Awards, where Rock was a presenter Sunday night and, as such, deems it a workplace incident subject to disciplinary review.
Earlier today, Smith resigned his membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after its Board of Governors had initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. “I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct,” he said. “My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable,” adding that he “will accept any further consequences the Board (of Governors) deems appropriate.”
On Monday, SAG-AFTRA said in a statement: “As the union representing presenters and other performers working on the Oscars, SAG-AFTRA is focused on ensuring our members always work in a safe environment. Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate and the union condemns any such conduct. The incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable. We have been in contact with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC about this incident and will work to ensure this behavior is appropriately addressed.”
The union’s statement concluded by noting that “SAG-AFTRA does not comment on any pending member disciplinary process” – suggesting that the incident is being reviewed for disciplinary action there, as well.
Expulsion is the most serious penalty SAG-AFTRA can impose, but other options include suspension, fines, reprimands and censure. The union has a standing delegation to both its Probable Cause Committee — to determine whether there’s a “probable cause” that the union’s Constitution has been violated — and to its Disciplinary Committee, but only a Disciplinary Committee decision to expel a member would automatically go to the national board, whose next regularly scheduled meeting is April 30.
Article XIV of the SAG-AFTRA Constitution, which deals with the “Discipline of Members,” states:
A. A member may be reprimanded, censured, fined, suspended or expelled from membership in the Union for any of the following offenses:
1. Violation of any of the provisions of this Constitution, or the policies, rules or regulations adopted by the Union or any of its Locals.
2. Engaging in actions antagonistic to the interests or integrity of the Union, any of its affiliated Locals or its membership, including providing services covered by the Union’s jurisdiction for any employer declared unfair by the National Board.
B. Procedure for Discipline
1. Any member in good standing, any affiliated Local, the National Executive Director or their designee, may file with the Secretary-Treasurer, or their designee, written charges against any member alleging facts describing any of the offenses set forth in this Article.
2. Charges must be filed within six (6) months of knowledge of the action or event that gave rise to the charges. Charges must set forth with reasonable specificity the nature of the offense and the facts underlying it.
3. The National Board, or its designee, shall review the charges and dismiss them if they have not been timely filed, if the act complained of does not constitute a violation subject to discipline under this Constitution or in the absence of sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for proceeding.
4. Unless the charges are dismissed pursuant to subparagraph B(3) of this Article, the Secretary-Treasurer, or their designee, or the National Executive Director, or their designee, shall give written notice to the member or members charged, attaching a copy of the charges and setting a hearing date at least fourteen (14) days in advance.
5. Prior to a hearing before the disciplinary committee, the National Board may designate a representative(s) to meet with a member who has been charged with any of the offenses set forth in this Article. The National Board’s representative(s) may offer a resolution to the charges that, if the member accepts, would be final and binding. If the member does not accept the offer, a disciplinary committee will be convened to hear and determine the charges, as described in this Article.
6. The National Board, or a disciplinary committee appointed pursuant to policies and procedures approved by the National Board, shall hear and decide the charges. At the hearing, a charged party shall have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony, and may have a representative assist them. The charged member shall be given written notice of the decision and penalty, if any. The National Board, or a disciplinary appeals committee designated by it, has authority to review the disciplinary committee’s decision and penalty, if any, on its own motion or on the member’s written appeal filed with the Secretary-Treasurer, or their designee, or the National Executive Director, or their designee, within twenty-one (21) calendar days of sending of notice of the disciplinary committee’s decision. On any appeal, the charges may be upheld, dismissed, the decision modified, or the charges referred to the disciplinary committee for further proceedings.
7. A member may be expelled from membership only by two-thirds (2/3) of the votes of the National Board members voting on the issue.
8. The National Board may adopt rules governing the investigation of charges and the conduct of any hearings or appeals under this Article.
The last time SAG-AFTRA publicly took steps to discipline a member came in early January 2021 when the union’s national board met in special session to consider disciplinary action against former President Donald Trump, a longtime member and former star of The Apprentice. He resigned from the union before he could be kicked out.
As first reported by Deadline, the board found “probable cause” that Trump had “violated the union’s Constitution,” and ordered the matter to be heard by SAG-AFTRA’s Disciplinary Committee. The charges cited Trump’s role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and his “sustaining a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.” Facing possible expulsion, Trump resigned in a huff, making a disciplinary hearing unnecessary.