Harvey Weinstein Accusers Give Voice To Women Sexually Harassed At Work

In the event you have not seen any of the stories covering him on the news, Harvey Weinstein is one of the most powerful producers and film studio executives in Hollywood, at one time serving as the head of Miramax before starting The Weinstein Company. On October 5, 2017, a New York Times article detailed incidences of sexual harassment and misconduct committed by Harvey Weinstein. To date, Mr. Weinstein has denied committing any acts of sexual harassment or misconduct.

Since the initial allegations, Mr. Weinstein has been removed from The Weinstein Company, and numerous other women have had the courage to speak about their personal experiences with Mr. Weinstein. The list of accusers has included some of the most well-known women in Hollywood, such as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Lupita Nyong’o, as well as numerous women who unfortunately happened to be in the vicinity of someone who would take advantage of them.

While the list of accusers appears to grow daily, there are some similarities between their stories. Overwhelmingly, the accusers have stated that they did not want to come forward or speak out against Mr. Weinstein because of fear of being subjected to retaliation by him. That fear is understandably paralyzing for anyone who is trying to break into or stay in the spotlight, especially in Hollywood where you may never know how long you can command top dollar for the projects you work on. For a woman in Hollywood, you have to take that fear and magnify it by 10x, primarily because of the victim-blaming/shaming culture that has manifested itself in the United States.

Recently, Alyssa Milano suggested that women tweet “me too” as a way to show that they had been subjected to sexual harassment and in an effort to shed light on how large of a problem sexual harassment in the workplace is. From this, the #MeToo campaign started and some women even detailed their sexual harassment that, in many cases, occurred at work. In these stories, women stated that they did not report the harassment because they were fearful of retaliation from their employer, or sometimes blamed themselves for being in a position where they could be harassed or taken advantage of by someone.

Despite all the stories coming out now, sexual harassment is not something that just started happening when a New York Times investigation detailed wide-sweeping misconduct by a Hollywood producer. In fact, in every year since 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”) has received over 12,000 charges of sexual harassment, and that trend has been increasing over the last three years.

Sometimes, victims of sexual harassment are not sure if they have been sexually harassed because they may not think their harasser warrants filing a complaint about or they may think the conduct was nothing more than “locker room talk.” Any man, whether he is a manager of a fast-food restaurant, co-worker, owner of a small business, or even a customer, who touches or speaks to you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, could be committing sexual harassment. In fact, the EEOC states that sexual harassment is the following:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

This definition would also mean that jokes, off-color offensive statements about women, or any other conduct that some employers may try to classify as “horseplay” generally could constitute sexual harassment. Importantly both state and federal laws prohibit an employer from terminating or otherwise retaliating against an employee in response to their complaint of sexual harassment. These protections exist so that victims of sexual harassment are empowered to speak out and report the conduct in an effort to eradicate the conduct altogether.

As with all cases of employment discrimination or sexual harassment, it is required to take a deeper look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged misconduct to determine what course of action is appropriate moving forward. If you or someone you know has been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, contact me as soon as possible and schedule a free initial consultation so we can work together towards addressing your concerns and investigating misconduct in the workplace.

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James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination, personal injury, and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.