High-profile lawsuits often cast light on sexual misconduct and empower everyday workers to pursue their rights. Late last month, a federal appeals court interpreted California law and reinstated actress Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment lawsuit against powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
Her lawsuit is based upon an alleged incident at a Beverly Hills Hotel around 20 years ago. She said that he later interfered in her career because of this episode.
Judd claims that Weinstein, wearing a bathrobe, met her in a private room under the guise of holding a breakfast meeting. She charged that she rejected his advances. Judd only escaped the room after promising Weinstein that he could touch her when she receives an Academy Award in one of his movies.
Appeals court ruling
A federal appeals court in San Francisco overruled the trial judge. That judge dismissed the sexual harassment claim last year even though he allowed her to proceed with other claims such as defamation. The appeals court ruled that Judd and Weinstein had a professional relationship covered by California’s sexual harassment law.
The appeals court found that there was a fundamental power imbalance in their relationship. The court said that Weinstein, as a top Hollywood producer, was in the unique position to assert coercion or leverage over Judd’s career.
Weinstein’s attorney denied Judd’s allegations. He said that Weinstein did not defame Judd, interfere with her career, or ever retaliate against her.
Other alleged victims filed lawsuits against Weinstein. A federal judge in New York did not approve a proposed $18.9 million settlement between Weinstein and nine assault and abuse victims in July because it was unfair to other women.
Weinstein was also convicted in New York last year for sex crimes and is serving a 23-year sentence at a maximum-security prison in that state.
California law changes
California’s sexual-harassment law was changed amid the #MeToo movement that began when allegations of Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse came to light. State law now specifically addresses relationships involving movie directors and producers.
An attorney can help employees gain protections against harassment and abuse at work. A lawyer can also seek compensation and damages for the losses and harm they suffer.