This post contains profanity.
New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued ousted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company on Sunday for more than 10 years of sexually harassing women in the entertainment industry and demanding sex in exchange for employment.
The damning, 39-page indictment was the result of a four-month investigation into The Weinstein Company after The New York Times and New Yorker exposed decades’ worth of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Weinstein from multiple women, including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.
The reports led to Weinstein’s firing and his exclusion from the Academy, opening the floodgates for the #MeToo movement.
In the aftermath, women and survivors of sexual assault have come forward to discuss their experiences, provoking conversations about sexism, trust and power dynamics. But the lawsuit takes a closer look at the repeated institutional failures that supported years of misconduct and empowered Weinstein.
The suit does not accuse Weinstein of assault and representatives for Weinstein have previously denied all accusations of “non-consensual sex.”
Instead, it states that it intends to hold Weinstein and his brother Robert Weinstein as well as The Weinstein Company, the company they co-owned, accountable “for repeated, persistent, and egregious violations of law, to vindicate the rights of [the company’s] employees, and to prevent future recurrence of such misconduct.”
Investigators reviewed evidence obtained through correspondences, business records, financial records and thousands of pages of documents produced pursuant to third-party subpoenas from the creation of the company in 2005.
The suit claims that Weinstein targeted “vulnerable, aspiring actresses, models and entertainers as sexual conquests” and used his company as a “bargaining chip in return for sexual favors.” He also had female executives attend meetings to give the air of a formal business transaction while discussing “career trajectories,” according to the suit.
It also accuses Weinstein of creating a hostile work environment by belittling people with gendered terms, and the company of enabling that treatment.
It said when he wanted to degrade men or women, he would call them “c***” or “p***y” and fired a male assistant who he referred to as “just a f***ing f***** boy, a stupid f***ing f***** boy,” according to an email obtained by investigators.
“To work for Harvey Weinstein was to work under a persistent barrage of gender-based obscenities, vulgar name-calling, sexualized interactions, threats of violence, and a workplace generally hostile to women,” the lawsuit states.
It also claims that Weinstein, who is taller than six feet, would “terrorize female employees generally, deter them from making formal or informal workplace complaints,” and then attempt to silence them with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
Among the people silenced was a woman in 2011 who said Weinstein punched the back of her car seat while berating her and then later backed her up against a wall, according to the suit. The next year he threatened to “’cut [another woman’s] loins,’ traumatizing the employee, making her feel ‘forced out’ of her job, and causing her severe stress,” it states.
In 2014, the suit says he screamed at a female employee so loudly in a hotel lobby that a patron and hotel staff member asked if she needed assistance.
All three incidents, according to the suit, were sealed by NDAs.
And throughout these years some employees were told, “I will kill you, I will kill your family,” and “You don’t know what I can do,” according to the suit.
The suit also alleges he forced women into performing demeaning tasks, such as accompanying him to events in order to coordinate his sexual conquests and that he kept some employees on the payroll exclusively for those purposes.
Other tasks included maintaining his sexual calendar, procuring erectile dysfunction shots or administering them, as well as cleaning and returning items after sexual encounters, according to the suit.
When one employee refused to assume a role that “the boys” were never asked to do, Weinstein said, “if that’s your attitude f*** you and get out,” it states.
It also outlines several occasions on which Weinstein allegedly threatened employees’ jobs if they refused to perform sexual acts.
Weinstein employed as many as five assistants at any time, often female, who organized lists of women categorized by their cities, known internally as the “Friends of Harvey” or “FOH,” and they would send women emails dictated by him as part of their tasks. Their duties were outlined in what was internally called the “Bible,” which sat in his desk, according to the suit.
Not only did company funds pay for the employees to maintain this culture, but also the hotels, office and other spaces for his sexual encounters, as well as the gifts, lingerie, flowers, erectile dysfunction shots and other purchases to maintain the FOH, the suit says.
The suit also accuses the company’s human resources department and board of failing to protect employees from Weinstein’s abuse.
Despite numerous complaints to human resources and a manual strictly prohibiting harassment and sexual misconduct, Weinstein was never investigated, restricted or subject to any consequences, according to the suit, even with the facilitation of several NDAs. People stated that when they talked to the director of human resources, he would say that “he ‘sympathized’ with their plight, that they had a ‘tough job’ working for HW, but that there was nothing he could do to address the misconduct.”
The board also, “failed to inquire adequately into, or to restrain or prevent, the repeated and persistent unlawful conduct,” because of their relationships with Weinstein, avoiding credible claims of misconduct, the suit states.
It did, however, include as part of his contract extension in 2015 that he would face escalating financial penalties for treating “someone improperly in violation of the Company’s Code of Conduct.”
He agreed to pay $250,000 for the first such instance, “$500,000, for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each such additional instance,” which allowed him to “continue engaging in sexual harassment and misconduct with impunity, provided that he paid the costs of any settlements and that he avoided disclosure of misconduct,” according to the suit.
It says that the defendants, “have knowingly, repeatedly, and persistently, deprived women of equal treatment in terms, conditions, and privileges of employment and of the right to be free from severe or pervasive hostile treatment because of their sex.”
The lawsuit also takes into account the sale of the company.
“Any sale of the company must ensure victims are adequately compensated, employees are protected, and that enablers of sexual misconduct will not be unjustly enriched,” Schneiderman said in a statement on Twitter.