New York Suit Part of Tentative Settlement Agreement in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Movie Producer

In the fall of 2017, multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against a well-known Hollywood producer. This launched a movement that became known as #MeToo, named for the hashtag used on the social media service Twitter by people sharing their own accounts of sexual harassment in the entertainment business and other industries. Eventually, more than eighty women would come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by the producer. Numerous women filed suit against him and his studio for sexual harassment and other claims. Our New York City sexual harassment lawyers noted that the lawsuits included a suit by the New York Attorney General. In mid-December 2019, several parties announced a tentative settlement agreement, but not all of the parties seem to be happy with it.

Sexual harassment is considered a form of unlawful employment discrimination on the basis of sex under most employment statutes in the U.S., including New York City and New York State. The allegations against the producer largely take the form of one particular type of unlawful sexual harassment, known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. This occurs when submitting to demands for sexual conduct of some kind is a condition of employment. In the entertainment business, the term “casting couch” is essentially shorthand for quid pro quo sexual harassment. It refers to scenarios in which an actor or actress must give in to the sexual demands of a director or producer in order to get a part.

The New York Times published an article in October 2017 featuring accusations of sexual harassment and other misconduct by the producer. Multiple women described scenarios in which the producer allegedly made their success in Hollywood contingent on sexual activity, regardless of what the actresses wanted. The Times also reported a series of settlements with women who had made similar allegations, going back more than twenty-five years. The film studio that the producer co-founded announced shortly afterwards that it had fired him in response to these allegations.

Many of the women who came forward filed suit against the producer and his studio in 2017 and 2018. The New York Attorney General filed a lawsuit in February 2018, alleging quid pro quo sexual harassment and other claims. The film studio filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the following month, after a potential buyout fell through. The producer also faces criminal charges in Manhattan.

The buyout negotiations in early 2018 reportedly included a $90 million fund for the producer’s accusers, but this never materialized. A proposed $44 million settlement was announced in May 2019. In December, parties to several lawsuits announced a tentative deal for $25 million. The settlement is controversial for multiple reasons. According to the New York Times, no individual plaintiff would receive more than $500,000. Most of the money would come from the studio’s insurance providers. The producer himself would pay nothing out of his own pocket. At least two plaintiffs have expressed an intention to challenge the settlement, which still requires court approval.

The sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of employees, former employees, and job seekers in New York City, helping them assert claims of quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment under city, state, and federal law. Please contact us today online or at (866) 229-9441 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

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