Harvey Weinstein was once at the very top of Hollywood. As accusations of his sexual predation came to light, it didn’t just trigger his downfall. It ushered in a tidal wave of exposure of sexual impropriety in the film industry.
Harvey Weinstein can’t escape being a media or legal target.
On Sunday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed suit against The Weinstein Company, Harvey Weinstein and Robert Weinstein for egregious violations of New York’s civil rights, human rights and business laws.
Filed in New York County Supreme Court, the suit includes new and extensive accusations about longtime company CEO Harvey Weinstein’s mistreatment of employees. Employee accounts of sexual harassment, intimidation and other misconduct are part of the suit.
The suit delays the sale of The Weinstein Company, which was expected to close Sunday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Schneiderman’s office expressed concerns that those responsible for any misconduct would receive a windfall. Any such sale “must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched,” the attorney general said in a statement.
The lawsuit seeks restitution and damage payments for victims, as well as fines paid to the state.
Ben Brafman, Harvey Weinstein’s attorney, responded to the suit in a statement to USA TODAY.
“We believe 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,” the statement reads.
“If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr. Weinstein will embrace the investigation. If the purpose however is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself.”
Among notable examples of harassment cited by the lawsuit:
• Harvey Weinstein told several employees words to the effect of “I will kill you,” “I will kill your family,” and “You don’t know what I can do.” He also asserted that he had contacts within the Secret Service who could take care of problems for him.
• The Weinstein Company, the suit says, “employed one group of female employees whose primary job it was to accompany (Harvey) to events and to facilitate (his) sexual conquests. … One of the members of this entourage was flown from London to New York to teach” his assistants “how to dress and smell more attractive” to him.
• Another group of employees were assigned to “further his regular sexual activity, including by contacting … prospective sexual partners via text message or phone at his direction and maintaining space on his calendar for sexual activity.”
• A third set of employees also were forced to facilitate his sexual conquests. These female employees were supposed to help his company produce films and television projects. But despite their skills and stated job responsibilities, he required them to meet with prospective sexual conquests for his own personal interests. “This compelled service demeaned and humiliated them, contributing to the hostile work environment.”
• His use of vulgarity was widely noted in the suit, which described how he would call female employees “c—” or “p—-” when he was angry with them or felt they had done a task poorly or incorrectly. And he also used those terms to scold or degrade male employees. On some occasions, he asked female employees if they had their period, including asking an employee if her tampon was “up too far,” the filing says. In one 2012 incident, he launched into a tirade against a female employee in which he berated her in front of other employees and threatened to “cut (her) loins.”
• Weinstein’s assistants were required to provide childcare for his young children and handle other domestic work for his wife, Georgina Chapman, and an adult daughter.
• Assistants had copies of a document called the “Bible,” which included information about his likes and dislikes, and a list of people to assist arranging “personals,” or sexual activity.
• His drivers in both New York and Los Angeles were required to have available condoms and erectile dysfunction injections in the car at all times.
• The suit says the head of human resources at Weinstein’s company was not empowered to do anything about his ongoing sexual harassment of female employees. Victims were told by the director of HR that he “sympathized” with them, acknowledging that they had a “tough job,” but that there was nothing he could do.
The New York attorney general says that Robert Weinstein, who was aware of his brother’s sexual misconduct, allowed Harvey to create a hostile work environment and engage in sexual misconduct, and did nothing to prevent it.
Contributing: Jon Campbell in Albany, N.Y.
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