Shut Out from Employee Development Program

SAN FRANCISCO -- Long-established Bay Area has been shut out from an employee development program, a California government agency has decided.

The California Employment Training Panel has been providing funding for a program developed to help Golden State businesses compete with out-of-state and foreign operations by paying a contractor to train in-state employees, reports the S.F. Weekly.

According to Vice President John Sander, the company was part of the state program for about three years. However, once the agency learned Kink dealt in adult activities, it withdrew subsidy funding for the training.

"We were very grateful for it," Sander told "It was a great asset to developing our employees. We're a tax-paying organization and took advantage of a program that was available to all other [non-adult] organizations. But we've been informed we're no longer able to participate."

Kink employees received training through the Bay Area Video Coalition, which told the Weekly the company is "legally recognized by California" and "a valued community neighbor."

However, ETP general counsel Maureen Reilly said the agency has a long-standing policy of not funding training in the adult entertainment industry.

Sander, who confirmed employees were trained in areas that include video shoots, editing and Photoshop as well as other computer graphic skills, is disappointed by the ETPs' decision.

"They can choose to work with the types of organizations the commission decides to work with and decided against adult companies."

Nonetheless, Sander told Kink plans to challenge the decision.

"Absolutely. We're pursuing all means possible," he said. "But at the end of the day, the organization is set up to decide which companies it wants to work with."

The S.F. Weekly brought up the possibility that the stripping of Kink's funding could violate constitutional free speech laws: can a state agency or body hold back funding just because members of that body might find it distasteful?  The ETP's policy loophole includes mention in a meeting "about pirating of products and victimization of workers in media services." But as Kink points out, all its models are pre-interviewed and well aware what the jobs on-camera entail. Some psychologists argue to the contrary, that economic coercion is involved, but from a legal standpoint, the adult industry, considered the "lowest funding priority" by the ETP, is clearly being singled out.

"I think a fair reading of Supreme Court decisions in this area would support the view that government can't deny all funding to companies while allowing it to others, because the discrimination is based on the expressive content that the companies produce," Peter Scheer of the California First Amendment Coalition told the Weekly.

UC Hastings College of the Law professor Ashutosh Bhagwat isn't quite as sure and said, "The law in this area is a mess. The government has some discretion in choosing what speech it wants to fund, but not always. There's a potential constitutional issue there."

Other constitutional law experts go back and forth as well, citing various Supreme Court cases that allow for discretionary funding by government agencies and bodies.

Meanwhile, Kink V.P. Sander has no regrets about the company's years with the ETP. 

"Again we're very grateful for the training we did receive; employees were helped greatly from it," he said. "Many alumni from Kink have gone on to do great things in the community and professionally. We had about 30 employees take part. It's a great program."