NY Attorney General Sues The Weinstein Company Over Civil Rights Violations in Sexual Assault Scandal

The lawsuit alleges “egregious violations” of civil rights at the company as it perches on the verge of a sale

Weinstein Company lawsuit Harvey Weinstein Eric Schneiderman
Harvey Weinstein and New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman

New York state filed a civil rights lawsuit against The Weinstein Company on Sunday, alleging multiple “egregious violations of New York’s civil rights, human rights, and business laws.”

The suit, filed today in New York County Supreme Court, includes new and extensive allegations about longtime company CEO Harvey Weinstein’s vicious and exploitative mistreatment of company employees,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement. “Today’s suit includes numerous employee-victim accounts of sexual harassment, intimidation, and other misconduct.”

The lawsuit names three defendants: The Weinstein Company, and Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the company’s cofounders. Earlier reports that CEO David Glasser would be named in the suit were shown to be inaccurate. The new buyers of the company, Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle, huddled on Sunday to figure out how to deal with the new developments, as the sale was supposed to close this weekend.

Ben Brafman, attorney for Harvey Weinstein said in a statement 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.”

He continued, “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.”

In announcing the lawsuit, Schneiderman stated that under new ownership, the company must ensure that victims are compensated and current employees protected.

“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,” said Schneiderman.

The company’s board said in a statement that many of the accusations were “inaccurate.”

“With respect to the Company’s ongoing sale process, the Board sought a transaction to preserve jobs and create a victim fund,” the board statement said, adding that it hoped to continue discussions with the Attorney General “in order to reach our common goal of bringing this situation to an appropriate resolution.”

As TheWrap reported earlier on Sunday, the outgoing board of directors rejected an offer to settle the pending lawsuit with the attorney general last Wednesday.

The allegations are varied and detailed.  Here are some of the allegations outlined in the lawsuit:

  • Harvey Weinstein told several employees throughout the relevant time period that, in substance, “I will kill you,” “I will kill your family,” and “You don’t know what I can do,” or words to that effect. He touted his connection to powerful political figures and asserted that he had contacts within the Secret Service that could take care of problems.
  • At Harvey Weinstein’s direction, “TWC employed one group of female employees whose primary job it was to accompany HW to events and to facilitate HW’s sexual conquests… These women were described by some witnesses as members of HW’s TWC ‘roster’ or his ‘wing women.’ One of the members of this entourage was flown from London to New York to teach HW’s assistants how to dress and smell more attractive to HW…”
  • A second group of predominantly female employees served as his assistants. They were compelled to take various steps to help his sexual activity, including contacting “Friends of Harvey” and other prospective sexual partners via text message or phone at his direction and maintaining space on his calendar for sexual activity.
  • A third group of predominantly female TWC employees — female executives — also were forced to facilitate his sexual conquests. He required them to follow through on his promises of employment opportunities to women he favored.
  • One female executive reported to TWC’s Human Resources department: “only female executives are put in these positions with actresses with whom HW has a ‘personal friendship,’ which to my understanding means he has either had or wants to have sexual relations with them. Female Weinstein employees are essentially used to facilitate his sexual conquests of vulnerable women who hope he will get them work.” The lawsuit said TWC took no steps to investigate these allegations or to prevent such conduct.
  • Harvey Weinstein made quid pro quo offers or demands of sexual favors in exchange for career advancement at TWC, or to avoid adverse employment consequences.
  • In 2015, he asked a female employee to go to his hotel room at the end of the day to set up his phone and devices for the next day. (TWC employee called this “turndown service” and it was generally assigned to women. He was naked under a bathrobe and asked for a massage. When the employee said no, he cajoled, badgered, and insisted until she gave in, out of fear of retaliation. This was reported to Human Resources and to executives and Board members of the company in November 2015, but TWC did not investigate or do anything to prevent such behavior in the future.
  • In  2014 and 2015, Harvey Weinstein exposed himself to a female employee and made her take dictation from him while he leered at her, naked on his bed. She said he insisted that she sit next to him in the back seat of his chauffeured vehicle, and would place his hand on her upper thigh and buttocks near her genitalia and rub her without her consent. When she placed bags or other barriers between them, he moved them to continue the unwanted touching. She and other TWC employees believed that they would face adverse consequences unless they acquiesced.
  • Once, he said he might have to fire a female employee because his daughter was angry with her, and he asked the employee what she was “prepared to do” to keep her job – a proposition that the female employee understood was a demand for sexual activity. The employee quit.
  • Harvey Weinstein required assistants to schedule “personals” for sexual activity both during and after the workday.
  • Assistants possessed copies of a document known as the “Bible,” an assistant-created guide for working with him that was passed down through assistants. It included information about his likes and dislikes, and a list of his “friends” with directions for assistants on how to arrange  “personals.”
  • His drivers in both New York City and Los Angeles were required to keep condoms and erectile dysfunction injections in the car at all times to provide to him as needed.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.