Harvey Weinstein – Sexual assault victims deserve compensation and justice

2nd Mar 2020
Lisa Boyle

Harvey Weinstein – Sexual assault victims deserve compensation and justice
The disgraced Hollywood mogul has been served his long overdue reckoning and is facing up to 25 years in jail, following a string of allegations from women who have been degraded and sexually harassed by Weinstein.  The name Weinstein is now synonymous with abuse of power, sexual harassment, degradation, rape and assault.
Since 2017 Weinstein has faced more than 100 allegations of harassment and assault against him, sparking the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The Weinstein scandal stems from the age old power imbalance of the male boss in charge of the vulnerable female employee. The Time’s Up campaign insists on a world where women are safe and respected at work and can work without the fear of being sexual harassed or assaulted.
All employees have a legal right to protection from harassment and unwanted sexual advances from their employers, fellow workmates and any person connected with their employment. This covers conduct both inside the workplace and outside of the workplace. The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as unwanted conduct which has the effect of making a person feel humiliated, degraded or offended, has the effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment. Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature and can cover unwanted touching, sexual comments or jokes and sexual assault.
Weinstein’s conduct is not only criminal behaviour, but also falls squarely within the definition of sexual harassment within the Equality Act.
When the allegations against Weinstein first surfaced in 2017, a number of actresses reported that they felt like they couldn’t complain, or were scared to complain because of the impact it might have on their career. Genuine fear for their jobs and career progression can stop women from speaking out. The power imbalance in the producer/actor relationship means that a woman asserting her right not to be sexually harassed may find herself out of work or might find that her career is damaged.
While the employer, employee relationship is unequal in terms of the power balance, employees who are subjected to detrimental treatment because they take a stand against harassment are further protected by the terms of the Equality Act. The Equality Act specifically provides that a women who complains of sexual harassment, or sex discrimination at work cannot be victimised because she raises a complaint. Victimisation is any action that puts the employee at a detriment and is a result of the complaint of sexual harassment, or sex discrimination.
As well as the fear of victimisation, women can also be afraid to report sexual harassment because of the fear of being judged by colleagues who are not sympathetic. In 2013, actor Seth MacFarlane joked at the Oscars about how women nominated for an award no longer had to “pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein “. He later apologised for the comments and condemned Weinstein’s behaviour, however this is the kind of attitude that can prevent women from speaking out about sexual harassment.
Whatever the reasons are that prevent women from speaking out, it is important that they break the silence and report sexual harassment. Employers have an obligation to deal with perpetrators of abuse. An Employment Tribunal will award compensation to women who have been victims of sexual harassment at work.
Claims for sexual harassment need to be pursued within three months of the date of the latest incident of harassment. Our employment law specialists can advise you, please call Watermans on 0141 430 7055.