The New York state is suing US movie producer Harvey Weinstein, his brother and their production company for failing to protect staff from years of his alleged sexual misconduct, despite multiple complaints.
The lawsuit, filed on Sunday, comes four months after the Hollywood mogul’s career ended over allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape levelled by more than 100 women, spanning 40 years.
The lawsuit, the result of an ongoing investigation, was filed out of fear that an imminent sale of The Weinstein Company, on the verge of bankruptcy, could leave victims without adequate redress, prosecutors said. The suit can delay the sale. However, Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, poured cold water on it and presented his client as a supporter of women’s career advancement.
But prosecutors accuse the company’s board and executives of repeatedly failing to take adequate steps to protect staff or curb Weinstein’s behaviour, despite multiple complaints to human resources.
The 65-year-old twice-married father of five is being investigated by British and US police, but has not been charged yet.
He denies having non-consensual sex and is in treatment for sex addiction.
The suit claims women assistants were required to facilitate Weinstein’s sex life as a condition of employment and had copies of a manual – known as a “Bible” – that included directions on how to do so.
Prosecutors allege Weinstein made verbal threats to kill several staff or their families, and touted his connection to political figures and alleged Secret Service contacts that could “take care of problems”.
They said an employee flew from London to New York to instruct assistants how to dress and smell attractive to Weinstein.
The mogul’s drivers in New York and Los Angeles were required to keep condoms in the car at all times, prosecutors said.
Among the alleged misconduct was of Weinstein making an employee take dictation while leering at her as he lay naked on his bed in 2014-15.
He also allegedly fondled her without consent in the back of cars. Assistants allegedly contacted prospective sexual partners at his direction, and maintained space on his calendar for sex.
Women executives allegedly had to meet prospective sexual conquests and follow through on promised job offers, which prosecutors said demeaned them, fuelling a hostile work environment.
The New York state attorney’s office said despite multiple complaints to the human resources department, there was no meaningful investigation or relief for victims – or consequences for Weinstein.
It said the firm’s toxic work environment was shrouded in secrecy because of a practice of reaching non-disclosure agreements – a policy that has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the watershed that has followed Weinstein’s downfall.
Brafman said: “While Mr Weinstein’s behaviour was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality.
“At the end of the inquiry, it will be clear that Mr Weinstein promoted more women to executive positions than any other industry leader – and there was no discrimination.
“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, he will vigorously defend himself.” – AFP
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