The Weinstein Company is facing further investigation by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who is currently determining whether pervasive reports of sexual harassment and misconduct on the part of Harvey Weinstein are reflective of a larger pattern of civil rights infractions and gender discrimination throughout the organization. Schneiderman has issued subpoenas for a wide array of corporate documents related to human resources and employment at the film studio.
Numerous Accusations of Sexual Misconduct
Some of the biggest names in the movie industry have come forward to tell their own stories of harassment, assault and unwanted sexual contact with Harvey Weinstein. Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow are among the best-known actresses who have gone on the public record with their complaints about Weinstein’s behavior toward them early in their careers.
Following the Money Trail
Along with the allegations of sexual misconduct over the course of several decades, Weinstein is accused of paying off at least eight women in exchange for their silence regarding his unwanted sexual advances and harassment. If the funding for these payoffs came from the Weinstein Company’s coffers, it could be evidence that the company turned a blind eye to complaints about Weinstein’s behavior and, in fact, enabled him to continue his activities by providing its financial support.
Sexual Harassment in New York
In the state of New York, sexual harassment is considered a type of sexual discrimination and, as such, covered by both the New York Human Rights Law and Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. While Title VII is interpreted to apply only to employers with 15 or more employees on their payrolls, the provisions of Human Rights Law apply to all employers within the state of New York regarding allegations of sexual harassment.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Inappropriate words, actions, and environmental conditions can potentially prompt a complaint of sexual harassment. Some of the most commonly reported examples of sexual harassment include the following:
• The posting or presence of overtly sexual materials in the workplace
• Unwanted sexual advances, especially if repeated
• Unwanted touching and physical contact up to and including sexual assault
• The attempted or actual exchange of sexual favors for promotions and advantages in the workplace
• Intimidation or coercion for sexual favors
• Jokes, comments and other communications that are overtly sexual
As Weinstein’s case demonstrates, employees and clients may not always report these incidents right away because of feelings of shame or worries about how their report might affect their ability to work at the company or in the industry in the future.
Potential Consequences for the Weinstein Company
While most of the board of the Weinstein Company has already resigned, Bob Weinstein is continuing his efforts to save the film studio that he founded with his brother Harvey in 2005. The overwhelming tide of accusations of rape, sexual misconduct and sexual harassment on the part of Harvey Weinstein, however, has made it difficult to see a path forward for the beleaguered company. The added weight of the Schneiderman investigation has put even more pressure on the Weinstein Company.
If the Weinstein Company is found to have violated the Human Rights Law of New York, Attorney General Schneiderman could assess fines against the film company. The most severe damage to the company, however, has already been done in the deluge of negative publicity it has received, and the unwillingness of the film industry associated with the sexual harassment charges levied against Harvey Weinstein.
At Risman & Risman, our focus is providing our clients with the most proactive representation of all types of New York employment law issues. We can prosecute claims of sexual harassment against your employer and protect your legal rights, promoting a safer and more suitable work environment for all individuals in the workplace. To set up a free consultation, call us at 212-233-6400. The legal team at Risman & Risman will be happy to work with you to resolve these issues quickly and in the most positive way possible.