The allegations against Hollywood entertainment executive Harvey Weinstein have become increasingly ghastly in recent weeks. Increasingly more have come forward to report decades of harassment – and in several cases, blatant sexual assault – at his hands. The legal ramifications of this conduct are not limited to Mr. Weinstein himself. The emerging facts indicate that Weinstein Co., the executive’s famous production company which has become a pillar of the Hollywood business industry, will also be subjected to civil liability for the crimes committed by its disgraced leader.
Employment attorneys know that such instances of sexual harassment and even sexual assault in the workplace are not isolated. They occur in all industries, at all levels of employment. The question of whether a company can be sued for sexual harassment depends on a myriad of factors, and talking with a skilled employment law attorney can help you sort through your legal options.
When Can a Company Be Liable for the Conduct of Its Workers?
Under California law, an employer is legally responsible (“liable”) for all acts committed by workers within the scope of their employment. The California Civil Jury Instructions clarify that an act can be considered “within the scope of employment” if it arises from a risk created by the enterprise. In the case of Weinstein Co., this means that the company may be liable for Mr. Weinstein’s criminal acts if the company created the risk of his harassment. Because the acts are alleged to have occurred in multiple states over several decades, it is highly likely that many people within the company knew about Mr. Weinstein’s conduct, and failed to report or correct it. This created a risk that more women would be harassed and sexually assaulted. In this manner, the company could be found to be legally responsible for his actions in a civil lawsuit, and thus be legally obligated to compensate the victims for their financial losses.
In some cases, the conduct of Weinstein Co. workers was much more directly related to their work, and thus more clearly within the scope of employment. The Los Angeles Times reports that some former and current Weinstein Co. employees were enlisted to help Mr. Weinstein trick women into being alone with him for supposedly professional meetings. These meetings were often a pretext for Mr. Weinstein to make sexual advances on the target. In this case, Weinstein Co. would be liable for the harassment through both Mr. Weinstein’s conduct and the complicit employee’s.
Many of his victims will likely have legal claims for emotional distress. The California Civil Jury Instructions provide the standard of proof for a claim for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff must prove: (1) that the defendant’s conduct was outrageous; (2) that it was intended to cause the plaintiff emotional distress; (3) that the plaintiff suffered emotional distress; and (4) that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s emotional distress.
What Financial Compensation Are the Victims Entitled To?
When a plaintiff files a civil sexual harassment lawsuit against a defendant, he or she must prove the value of the financial losses that were caused by the defendant. These losses are known as “legal damages.” Legal damages include any financial loss which was directly related to the defendant’s conduct. In the case of Mr. Weinstein’s victims, this could potentially include lost wages, trauma counseling, attorneys fees, and other costs which were attributable to Mr. Weinstein’s harassment and abuse.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
The legal fallout from the mushrooming Weinstein sex scandal could be big, October 10, 2017 by Daniel Miller, Ryan Faughnder and David Ng for the Los Angeles Times
More Blog Entries:
Company Culture Causes Sexual Harassment in California, July 28, 2017 by Employment Lawyer Blog