01/04/2018 08:14 EST | Updated 01/04/2018 08:21 EST

Women accusing theatre star Albert Schultz of sex assault speak out

TORONTO — Four actresses who allege they were sexually assaulted and harassed by Soulpepper Theatre founding artistic director Albert Schultz say they were motivated to come forward because of what they described as hypocrisy and unsafe working conditions at the renowned company.

The women spoke out at a news conference on Thursday, a day after revealing they had filed lawsuits against Schultz and Soulpepper, alleging the prominent theatre figure exposed himself, groped them, and otherwise sexually humiliated them over several years.

The allegations have not been proven in court. Schultz says he plans to defend himself against the claims and Soulpepper's board of directors says it has instructed him to step down as it conducts an investigation.

Plaintiff Hannah Miller says working conditions at Soulpepper are not safe for actors whose jobs lead them to be open and vulnerable.

Actress Kristin Booth says she felt the need to come forward after seeing public statements from Soulpepper touting anti-harassment policies that she says she never saw in action during her time with the company.

Booth and Miller are joined in their allegations by Diana Bentley and Patricia Fagan, all of whom agreed to be named publicly.

Four Soulpepper artists, Ted Dykstra, Stuart Hughes, Michelle Monteith and Rick Roberts, have resigned from the theatre company as a symbol of support for the women and say they will not rejoin unless Schultz, 54, has no role there.