New York’s attorney general has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and his film company, the Weinstein Co. The suit accuses Weinstein of repeatedly sexually harassing, intimidating and demeaning female employees and perpetrating a hostile work environment.
The disgraced Hollywood mogul’s “vicious and exploitative” treatment of employees, coupled with the company’s failure to protect them, presented “egregious violations of New York’s civil rights, human rights, and business laws,” according to the lawsuit, which also names Weinstein’s brother and the studio’s co-founder, Bob.
After the allegations against Harvey Weinstein attracted national attention last year, Bob Weinstein insisted he had no idea about “the type of predator” that his brother was.
The 38-page lawsuit was the result of a four-month civil rights investigation by Schneiderman’s office that began after reports emerged in the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing decades of sexual abuse allegations. In the time since, more than 70 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, including rape. Police reports against Weinstein have been filed in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York and London.
The lawsuit, announced by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, relied on interviews with numerous Weinstein employees, executives and accusers, as well as a trove of company records and emails. The investigation into the Weinstein Co. detailed “a years-long gender-based hostile work environmena years-long gender-based hostile work environmentt, a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment, and routine misuse of corporate resources for unlawful ends” that extended from about 2005 through October 2017.
The lawsuit alleges:
• Weinstein required executive assistants to arrange his sexual encounters, even directing them to “essentially badger women who refused or expressed reluctance.” The assistants were exposed to and required to facilitate” his “sex life as a condition of employment.”
• One group of assistants kept copies of a document known as the “Bible” detailing a list of Weinstein’s “friends” and instructions on arranging his “personals,” or sexual encounters
• Drivers for Weinstein in New York City and Los Angeles were required to keep condoms and erectile dysfunction injections in the car at all times.
• Weinstein subjected several employees to threats such as “I will kill you, I will kill your family” and “you don’t know what I can do.”
• He allegedly made offers or demands of sexual favors in exchange for career advancement at the company.
• The company funded and facilitated encounters during which Weinstein “engaged in unlawful sexual conduct with numerous women.”
• Human resources staff would immediately inform Weinstein of any complaint and helped facilitate retaliation by him or a swift departure of the complainant from the company.
• Weinstein’s employment contract allowed him to continue engaging in sexual harassment and misconduct with impunity, as long as he paid the costs of any settlements.
Weinstein has repeatedly denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex. His attorney, Ben Brafman, released a statement Sunday evening saying many of the allegations against his client are “without merit,” according to the Associated Press.
“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,” Brafman said in the statement. The Weinstein brothers founded Miramax in 1979. They sold the studio in 1993.
After leaving Miramax, the brothers founded the Weinstein Co. in 2005.
The Weinstein Co. board, which includes Bob Weinstein, also issued a statement Sunday to the Wall Street Journal and the Hollywood Reporter, saying it is “disappointed that the New York Attorney General felt it necessary to file today’s complaint.”
“Many of the allegations relating to the board are inaccurate and the board looks forward to bringing the facts to light as part of its ongoing commitment to resolve this difficult situation in the most appropriate way,” the board stated.
The Weinstein Co.’s board decided to sell in October, but the lawsuit appeared to throw a wrench into a deal in the works with Maria Contreras-Sweet, who led the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama.
Contreras-Sweet first submitted a bid to acquire the Weinstein Co. in November. She proposed retaining the company’s employees and installing a majority-female board of directors, with Contreras-Sweet as chairman. She wanted to make the studio’s chief operating officer, David Glasser, the head of the company.
Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, filed the lawsuit in part to intervene in the company’s imminent sale, his office said in a statement. Schneiderman said he believed the terms of the sale would “leave victims without adequate redress” and allow Weinstein’s enablers or perpetrators to benefit financially or take on leadership positions in the new entity.
According to the lawsuit, the attorney general opposes Contreras-Sweet’s plan to put Glasser in charge. Under this imminent sale, the lawsuit said, employees “would be reporting to some of the same managers . . . who failed to investigate (Harvey Weinstein’s) ongoing misconduct or adequately protect female employees” from him.