Days before the rumored sale of the Weinstein Company, the New York Attorney General filed a civil rights lawsuit against the production company and its co-founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
In the lawsuit, filed Sunday at the New York County Supreme Court, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused the company, and especially Harvey Weinstein, of "vicious and exploitative mistreatment of company employees," including "sexual harassment, intimidation, and other misconduct." The lawsuit follows the Attorney General's four-month investigation into the Weinstein Company, with Schneiderman interviewing multiple former Weinstein employees after dozens of sexual misconduct allegations against the producer surfaced in October 2017.
"As alleged in our complaint, The Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched. Every New Yorker has a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, intimidation, and fear."
The New York Times notes that the Attorney General's lawsuit could delay the sale of the Weinstein Company, which is currently run by Harvey's brother Bob Weinstein.
Schneiderman's lawsuit alleges that Harvey Weinstein (HW in the lawsuit) often threatened employees – "I will kill you," "I will kill your family" as well as claims that the producer knew Secret Service members who could "take care of problems" – and that Harvey would make "offers or demands of sexual favors in exchange for career advancement."
The lawsuit also claims that Harvey had a group of female employees at the Weinstein Company (TWC) that would "accompany HW to events and to facilitate HW's sexual conquests," as well as a second and third group of female employees that either "compelled to take various steps to further HW’s regular sexual activity" or "meet with prospective sexual conquests in order to facilitate HW’s sexual activity."
"HW's drivers in both New York City and Los Angeles were required to keep condoms and erectile dysfunction injections in the car at all times, in order to provide them to HW as needed," the lawsuit added.
The 39-page lawsuit illustrated how the Weinstein Company was either complicit with or covered up Harvey Weinstein's behavior: Human resources complaints against the producer were never investigated and often ignored. "Evidence gathered during the course of the investigation reflects that the Human Resources Director was not empowered to take any steps address HW’s ongoing sexual harassment of female employees," the lawsuit states.
While the majority of the lawsuit focused on Harvey Weinstein's many misdeeds, Schneiderman also accused Bob Weinstein of failing to maintain "a safe workplace, free of sexual harassment and other unlawful conduct." "Instead of doing so, [Bob] acquiesced in allowing HW to create a hostile work environment and engage in sexual misconduct that was known to him, or which he was responsible for preventing."
The lawsuit arrives as the Weinstein Company is on the verge of being sold in a deal that Schneiderman feared would not properly remunerate Weinstein's victims and former employees.
"While the Attorney General's investigation remains ongoing, [Schneiderman] is bringing suit today to seek court intervention in light of its investigative findings to date and the reported imminent sale of TWC – which [Schneiderman] has a substantive basis to believe would leave victims without adequate redress, including a lack of a sufficient victims compensation fund," the Attorney General's office announced.
"[Schneiderman] also believes that the proposed terms of the sale would allow the perpetrators or enablers of the misconduct to see a windfall, and allow top officials at TWC who share responsibility for the misconduct to serve in executive positions of the new entity – where they would again oversee the adjudication of HR complaints, including those of sexual harassment, intimidation, and assault."