NEW YORK – Disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was responsible for creating a “culture of abuse and intimidation” at his company that routinely violated sexual harassment and business laws, New York’s attorney-general claimed in a lawsuit filed on Sunday.
The 38-page court document submitted by Eric Schneiderman describes The Weinstein Co. as a “toxic” environment for young women, who were forced into “demeaning and humiliating” roles that mainly serviced Weinstein’s sexual appetite.
Furthermore, the civil suit alleges that the company’s executives and board repeatedly failed to protect employees from Weinstein, Schneiderman said in a statement. The suit also names Weinstein’s brother Bob, who co-founded the company.
The studio has been in talks to sell itself to a group of investors led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet, but Schneiderman’s lawsuit has put negotiations on hold, according to people familiar with the matter.
Court documents state that Schneiderman brought forward the litigation following a four-month “exhaustive review of company records and emails,” finding that the former studio head regularly demeaned employees using a litany of “obscenities and insults” aimed at their sexuality or physical attributes.
The suit states that on one occasion “HW [Harvey Weinstein] told a male assistant he was fired for... being ‘just a f*****g f****t boy, a stupid f*****g f****t boy.’”
Weinstein would allegedly attack female workers with even stronger invective, regularly “using gender stereotypes to insult and belittle” women whom he employed at his company.
Schneiderman claims that “HW regularly called female employees ‘c**t’ or ‘p***y’ when he was angry with them or felt they had done a task poorly or incorrectly, or even just instead of calling them by their first names.”
The lawsuit comes after employees at the company suffered a “years-long gender-based hostile work environment, a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment, and routine misuse of corporate resources for unlawful ends that extended from in or about 2005 through at least in or about October 2017.”
The New York Times first reported in October on multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein.
Since then, nearly 100 women have stepped forward to level accusations against the former movie mogul, with allegations ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
Superstar celebrities such as Rose McGowen, Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd are among Weinstein’s many high-profile accusers.
The civil suit also places the blame at the head of Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother and former business partner, claiming that he “acquiesced in allowing [Harvey] to create a hostile work environment and engage in sexual misconduct that was known to him, or which he was responsible for preventing.”
In a statement, Harvey Weinstein’s attorney, Ben Brafman, said a fair investigation by Schneiderman would prove that many of the allegations against his client were without merit.
“While Mr. Weinstein’s behavior was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC,” Brafman said.
“If the purpose of the inquiry is to encourage reform throughout the film industry, Mr. Weinstein will embrace the investigation. If the purpose, however, is to scapegoat Mr. Weinstein, he will vigorously defend himself,” Brafman said.
Reuters contributed to this report.