How far does sexual harassment and abuse go in Hollywood?

Weinstein case demonstrates the prevalence of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

The ongoing, still-expanding investigation into the many alleged misdeeds of producer Harvey Weinstein (who was fired from his own production company as a result) is shining a global spotlight on the pervasive issue of workplace sexual harassment. Over 300 women, among them models, actresses, assistants and staffers, have accused the prolific producer of harassment, abuse and, in some cases, even sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

Sexual harassment - and abuse - in Hollywood is one of the world's worst-kept secrets. Rumors and whispers have circulated for years about actresses and child actors alike being subjected to near-constant harassment and instances of sexual abuse and assault. It is important to also note that allegations involving mistreatment of men also occur, though less frequently. These new allegations against Weinstein, director James Toback (more than 100 women have come out with stories of harassment), Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and others prove that the so-called "casting couch" is apparently not a relic of generations past.

The allegations against these and other high-profile men run the gamut from textbook sexual harassment:

  • Repeated unwanted sexual advances
  • "Quid pro quo" (offering to exchange sexual favors for career advancement)
  • Unwanted touching
  • Vulgar jokes, statements and remarks (verbally or via email or posting)

To full-on sexual assault or attempted sexual assault:

  • Pushing women onto beds or couches
  • Breaking into hotel rooms
  • Exposing their privates to victims and performing acts of self-gratification
  • Groping

An existing EEOC connection

Interestingly, the Weinstein investigation, and its subsequent news storm, coincides with the wrap-up of a landmark analysis by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission throughout the film and television industry. The EEOC investigation began back in 2015, after a whistleblower alleged systemic gender-based discrimination against female producers and directors.

The EEOC probe discovered, among other things, that the Weinstein Co. in particular has only hired 9 female directors to work on the estimated 300 projects released by their studio. This is a rate of only 3 percent, despite women making up an estimated 41 percent of Hollywood producers and directors (according to information from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University). All six major movie production studios are allegedly now in settlement talks with the EEOC to wrap up the investigation. A likely result will be more female producers and directors on movie projects in the future.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is wrong, and you don't have to tolerate it in silence. If you or someone you care about - female or male - is dealing with unwanted sexual advances on the job, reach out for help. You can make a complaint to human resources or to state employment authorities, or call the federal EEOC. If administrative methods don't resolve the issues, contact an experienced employment law attorney like those at The Armstrong Law Firm. Call them toll free at 866-590-6082, or send an email today to schedule a free initial consultation.