Culture

Harvey Weinstein Is Facing A Massive Lawsuit For His Alleged Sexual Harassment

“Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated"

Content warning: This article discusses sexual harassment and assault

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Despite the huge public backlash against Harvey Weinstein since multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment were publicised in October, he hasn’t actually seen much in the way of legal consequences for his alleged actions so far.

But that might be about to change, with the State of New York announcing that it has filed a suit against the Weinstein Company, as well as against Weinstein himself, and his brother and company co-founder Robert.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the suit today, which alleges that “company executives and board repeatedly failed to protect employees from then-CEO Harvey Weinstein’s unrelenting sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination”, despite many complaints to human resources and “widespread knowledge across the company’s leadership of [Weinstein’s] persistent misconduct”.

The lawsuit aims to provide compensation for victims, ensure that employees are protected moving forward, and make sure “enablers of sexual conduct will not be unjustly enriched” by the sale of the company, which will reportedly occur soon. It follows a four-month investigation into the allegations against Weinstein, which is still ongoing — the suit was brought forward mainly to make sure that Weinstein couldn’t get away with profiting from the sale of the company before facing justice.

“As alleged in our complaint, The Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination,” the Attorney General said.

“Every New Yorker has a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, intimidation, and fear.”

The Attorney General’s announcement of the lawsuit includes a long — but not comprehensive — list of the kinds of misconduct Weinstein is alleged to have engaged in, which go well beyond those previously made public. These allegations range from threatening to kill employees, to compelling his employees to contact prospective sexual partners and make time for sex in his calendar, and demanding sexual favours in exchange for employment opportunities.

The four-month investigation found that while complaints about Weinstein’s behaviour were made to human resources on “numerous occasions”, there was never any formal internal investigation, nor did Weinstein face any restrictions or consequences. Complaints were not kept confidential, and were in some cases forwarded to Weinstein directly.

Robert Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein’s brother, is also named in the suit because, as co-owner, co-Chairman and co-CEO, he had a responsibility to maintain a safe workplace. Email evidence shows that he was repeatedly made aware of the complaints against his brother, but did not take action.

The investigation also found that Weinstein’s contract “contained an unusual provision that effectively monetised, rather than prohibited, ongoing acts of sexual harassment and misconduct”, stating that he would “face escalating financial penalties” for each successive instance in which he was found to have violated the company’s Code of Conduct — “$250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000, for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each such additional instance.”

As the Attorney General’s office put it, this contract essentially meant that Weinstein “could continue engaging in sexual harassment and misconduct with impunity, provided that he paid the costs of any settlements and that he avoided disclosure of misconduct that might risk causing ‘serious harm to the company.’”

In response to the lawsuit, Weinstein’s lawyer said that a “fair investigation by Mr. Schneiderman will demonstrate that many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are without merit.”

“While Mr. Weinstein’s behavior was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC.”

You can read the full press release from the Attorney General’s office here (a warning, though — it describes many allegations of sexual harassment).