The lawsuit claims that Weinstein worked to damage her career.
By now, most people are familiar with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. For decades, he is alleged to have sexually harassed and assaulted employees and actresses in Hollywood. This past fall, victims of his abuse began speaking out, sparking the #MeToo movement. After initial pushback, Weinstein resigned from his job to seek treatment, and has kept a low profile.
Now, one of his victims is fighting back — with a lawsuit that doesn’t just address the alleged sexual harassment, but also what he did to her after the fact. Actress Ashley Judd filed this lawsuit in California based on incidents that occurred in late 1996 or early 1997. Weinstein invited her to his hotel room for a private meeting to discuss projects. When she arrived, he allegedly greeted her in a bathrobe, and then propositioned her. She refused, and then fled. Shortly thereafter, according to Judd, Weinstein struck back: he spread rumors that she was difficult to work with and created problems on set. As a result, she lost a part in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring’s Trilogy, a blockbuster that went on to gross $2.5 billion and win multiple Oscars.
Judd filed suit against Weinstein on 4 bases: (1) slander; (2) sexual harassment in professional relationships; (3) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; and (4) fraudulent business activity. In other words, not only did Weinstein sexually harass Judd, but she alleges that once she turned him down, he spread lies about her professionalism across Hollywood — and intentionally torpedoed her career. Director Peter Jackson has stated that he had offered Judd a role in Lord of the Rings, but withdrew the offer based on what Miramax — Weinstein’s company, which owned the rights to the trilogy at the time — was saying about Judd. He commented in 2017 that he was likely fed false information about Judd in an attempt to smear her.
According to Judd, if she wins the lawsuit, she plans to donate it to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Her goal is to win more of a moral and political victory — and to show that people in power cannot get away with sexually harassing and then ruining the careers of their victims.
As a California employment attorney can explain, this strategy is fairly novel, largely because many employees do not often have this type of strong evidence. However, it is not unusual for someone who sexually harasses subordinates at work to retaliate in any number of ways, including making it difficult for his or her victim to advance or to find work elsewhere. If Judd is victorious in her lawsuit, it may open the door to other claims of this nature.
Sexual harassment is far too common in our society. Taking a stand against someone who is sexually harassing you at work can be difficult, but it may be necessary to protect yourself and your career. Filing a lawsuit may be one way to accomplish that goal. A skilled employment attorney can help.
At PLBSH, we represent employees who have suffered harassment and retaliation at work. We work collaboratively with our clients to help them achieve the best possible outcome for their case. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a seasoned employment attorney.