• Cullen and Dykman LLP Blogs

  • Archives

  • Harvey Weinstein Fired From His Own Company Amid Massive Sexual Abuse Allegations

    Earlier this month, the New York Times published a bombshell article detailing numerous accounts of sexual abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein over the course of three decades. The article accuses Weinstein of sexually harassing, and subsequently paying settlements to, at least eight women.  In the days following the article’s release, a number of other women came forward with their own stories of inappropriate sexual encounters with Weinstein.  In all, over 40 women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse including three accusations of rape.  The ensuing backlash forced the board of directors to fire Weinstein from his own company, the Weinstein Company, which he founded with his brother Bob.   Weinstein has also since resigned from his position on the company’s board.

    Harvey Weinstein began his career in the film industry in the 1970’s when he and his brother Bob founded their first film distribution company called Miramax. The company had modest success in the 1980’s mostly producing small art house films.  The company’s major success came in the 1990’s when it was bought by Disney and subsequently began producing major box office and critical hits like “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting.”  In 2005, Weinstein and his brother left Miramax to start the Weinstein Company where they had continued success releasing movies like “The King’s Speech” and “Django Unchained.”  Because of his decades of success in the industry, Weinstein became known as one of the most prominent and powerful figures in Hollywood.

    This prominence and power is likely what led to the accusations against Weinstein staying private for so long. Many figures in Hollywood have now revealed that Weinstein’s behavior was an “open secret” in the industry with some stating that they were too afraid to speak out as it could jeopardize their careers.  It could be argued that Weinstein was aware of this fear and thus targeted younger actresses early in their careers who would be too afraid to say “no”. There were also multiple accusations that Weinstein abused woman working in office roles at his company.

    What makes these accusations even more horrific is that high ranking officials at both Miramax and the Weinstein Company were allegedly very aware of what was going on. One actress claims that a female executive told her not to speak out as it might hurt the success of a film she was in.  Another actress claims she was told by one of Weinstein’s producing partners that if she said anything it would “definitely hurt her career.”  The Weinstein Company itself is also believed to have been involved in a number of the settlements Weinstein reached with his accusers and even drafted some of the confidentiality agreements the victims were allegedly forced to sign.

    The accusations against Weinstein have caused a major shakeup in Hollywood with many vowing to be more vocal about their experiences with sexual abuse. Some have even begun to accuse other prominent figures of abuse as well in an attempt to rid the industry of this type of malicious behavior.

    The Harvey Weinstein controversy has also raised a number of issues in the employment law sector. In recent days, there have been questions as to clauses in Weinstein’s contract that exculpated him from liability for sexual abuse claims.  There are also some who believe that high ranking officials within the Weinstein Company who helped cover up these claims could be liable to the victims.  This controversy can also serve as a major lesson for all types of institutions on how to properly deal with sexual harassment claims in the workplace.  This blog will continue to be updated with details on these, and any other new issues that arise surrounding this story.

    If you, or your organization, have any issues or questions concerning employment law, please contact Cynthia A. Augello at 516-357-3753 or via email at caugello@cullenanddykman.com.

    Thank you to Ryan Soebke, an intern with Cullen and Dykman LLP, for his assistance with this post.