A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Ashley Judd may pursue her allegations that Harvey Weinstein blackballed her after she declined his sexual advances.
As we observe Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, which commemorates the day on which the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was certified in 1920, it’s important to take the opportunity to take stock. How far has the United States come in terms of women’s rights — and how is it stalling, or going backwards? The news in many quarters seems positive. More Democrat women are running for office in the 2018 midterm elections than ever before, and the #MeToo movement continues to drive public conversation. But there are some fundamental rights for American women remain at risk.
Everything from the proposed “domestic gag rule,” which would ban any healthcare facility that receives federal funding from advising on or providing abortions, to the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in July — and the threat of his potential replacement, Brett Kavanaugh. Many activists suggest that Kavanaugh’s nomination follows President Trump’s promise to only nominate anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, and his past comments and rulings on abortion rights signal that he’d vote to weaken the law. Nearly half of the states across the country continue to have abortion limitations in law, and the specter of Roe being overturned is very present.
Sexual Harassment At Work
Trump rolled back the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order in 2017, which in part aimed to help sexual harassment victims at federal companies from being forced into secret arbitration proceedings with their employers. And while #MeToo, the movement begun by activist Tarana Burke, has brought allegations of sexual harassment across many industries into the spotlight, the problem remains pervasive. The Financial Times noted that in advertising and media alone, 40 percent of women said they’d been harassed, and revelations continue to roll out from tech startups to agricultural workers. Federal protections are disappearing, and grassroots movements are looking to be the sole way forward to force change.
Human Rights Watch has noted that, as a result of Trump’s roll-backs of various equal pay protections, “Large employers and federal contractors will not be required to provide disaggregated information about employees’ compensation to civil rights enforcement agencies.” Guess what? It’s now as easy as it ever was to pay women less than their male counterparts if you’re employed by the government.
Domestic violence survivors are being faced with some serious challenges under Trump’s presidency. The progressive think tank Center For American Progress noted in 2017 that proposed cuts to federal spending by the government would probably have catastrophic consequences for women who’d survived domestic violence, including limiting the funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Violence Against Women Act. Healthcare cuts could also mean that insurers could stop supporting domestic violence counseling because being a survivor would be classed as a “preexisting condition,” as Vox reported.
The National Women’s Law Center explains in its analysis of Trump’s proposed 2019 budget that national funding for women’s health is seriously under threat. “It decimates the Medicaid program — which not only provides access to vital care for over 17 million nationwide women enrolled in the program, but also supports nearly 4.4 million health sector jobs held by women nationwide,” they note.
And proposed changes to health insurance could leave millions of women uninsured or facing inflated premiums because they’ve been pregnant, been treated for domestic violence, or had a Caesarian section. Being a woman, warn women’s health advocates, would be a financially damaging pre-existing condition under these laws.
This makes for a pretty disheartening picture. But the landscape also has space for something important: you. Get out there, make your voice heard, and make it clear that erosions to your rights are not something you’re going to take lying down.
Ashley Judd can pursue Weinstein defamation case, judge says
But Judge Philip S. Gutierrez dismissed Judd’s sexual harassment claim against the disgraced producer, finding that it would be unprecedented to apply the statute to a prospective employer.
“We are very pleased that today the District Court held that Ashley Judd can proceed with her lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and continue her effort to vindicate the wrongs he committed against her among so many other women,” said Judd’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous. “The law should not tolerate this abuse of power to damage another’s career.”
Boutrous said the case will now proceed to discovery, including taking Weinstein’s deposition.
Judd filed suit in April, alleging that Weinstein smeared her reputation and dissuaded Peter Jackson from hiring her on “The Lord of the Rings.” Judd was one of the first to speak out against Weinstein, telling the New York Times that he invited her to a hotel room in late 1996 or early 1997, tried to massage her, and asked her to watch him take a shower. She refused and walked out.
Judd says she was up for a part in “The Lord of the Rings” two years later, but did not get it. After the Weinstein scandal broke last fall, Jackson said in an interview that Miramax had discouraged him from hiring Judd and actress Mira Sorvino, describing them as a “nightmare to work with.”
Judd argued that she only had a two-day part in the 1995 Miramax film “Smoke,” which was positive, and during which she had no interaction with Weinstein, and that therefore Weinstein’s comments were defamatory.
In a motion to dismiss, Weinstein’s lawyers argued that his alleged conduct did not rise to the level of sexual harassment and that the entire suit should be thrown out due to the statute of limitations. They also claim that Weinstein tried to cast Judd in other roles, proving he did not intend to harm her career, and that Weinstein’s purported statement that Judd was a “nightmare” was an opinion, and therefore not a provable fact subject to a defamation claim.
United States: Defamation In The #MeToo Era
While many states have considered, via legislation and/or common law precedent, protections for employees who come forward, in good faith, to report allegations of sexual harassment, employers have been left scratching their heads and scrambling over whether they can be liable for defaming an individual accused of sexual harassment. One state has addressed this issue through new legislation. California Assembly Bill No. 2770, signed into law on July 9, 2018, provides not only that an employee’s complaint of sexual harassment, made without malice and based on credible information, cannot give rise to liability for libel or slander, but also that a current or former employer may truthfully disclose, to a prospective employer, that an employee was the subject of such a complaint. The employer may also “answer, without malice, whether the employer would rehire an employee and whether or not a decision to not rehire is based on the employer’s determination that the former employee engaged in sexual harassment.”
In Massachusetts, only certain types of employers (hospitals, convalescent or nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice providers) are statutorily immune from liability and may not be sued for providing reference information about current or former employees, including the employee’s employment history and reasons for termination. Notably, an employer that is otherwise protected by statute can lose that immunity if the information it disclosed was false and the employer knew that it was false.
Other employers in Massachusetts may be protected by a common law conditional privilege, pursuant to which the employer may not be sued unless it, for example, acts with malice, provides information with reckless disregard as to whether it is true or false, or excessively discloses the information. It is up to the employee to present specific facts showing abuse of this conditional privilege in any lawsuit arising out of the disclosure.
Where does this leave Massachusetts employers? On the one hand, an employer’s negative reference may lead to claims for defamation and interference with contract if the former employee claims he or she was denied other employment because of the reference. On the other hand, an employer who fails to disclose truthful information about things like sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or violence in the workplace could face a claim for negligent misrepresentation or negligent referral if the former employee is involved in a similar incident or pattern of conduct at the new workplace.
Client Tip: All employers should be careful when providing references and have a policy regarding the same. To balance the risks, employers should provide truthful references through objective, verifiable facts. For example, an employer should not provide an opinion about a terminated employee, but rather state simply that the employer investigated a complaint that the former employee engaged in sexual harassment and, following that investigation, disciplined the employee.
1 in 3 women experiences violence in their lifetime: UN
United Nations has urged the governments to take immediate actions to prevent violence against women as the international women’s day is celebrated across the world on Thursday.
A statement released by the United Nations says 1 in 3 women experiences violence in their lifetime; 830 women die every day from preventable pregnancy-related causes. The reports released by the international human rights organizations show that millions of women are facing various violence especially in the most of the developing and Islamic countries.
Iran and Afghanistan are also among the countries, where women are victims of different types of violence. Few months before the international women’s day, dozens of Iranian women were put to jails for protesting forced hijab in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Human rights organizations express concern that the women are at the risk of being tortured or sexually abused. Iran has more strict laws for women, a country that takes it’s laws from Islam and the women activists call these laws one of the main factors of putting pressure on Iranian women.
For example, Iranian women are not allowed to run presidential election, work in the high-ranking religious positions or enter to the army. Iranian women cannot be singer in profession, they are not allowed to go outside of Iran without having permission from the male members of the family like father or husband.
This is not only for Iran, in the war-torn and improvised country of Afghanistan, neighboring Iran millions women are living under lots of pressure. However the laws have given more freedom for Afghan women comparing the Iranian, but most of the women are facing difficulties and restrictions due to the traditional laws and social constraints.
Taliban presence in the large parts of Afghanistan deprived women to go out of their homes and women in most parts of the country are treated as second or third degree citizens, in a country that millions are dollar is spent in women empowerment projects.
Afghan women are facing sexual harassment in public and even women are stoned for talking to men outside their families in some parts of the country. International women’s day is celebrated while millions of women are struggling to get even their initial rights in a male-dominated world.
Diet Madison Avenue Goes Dark After News of Defamation Suit
Anonymous industry whistleblower account Diet Madison Avenue effectively disappeared last night, several hours after news of a civil defamation suit filed against the entity went live in the advertising trade press.
As of approximately 10 p.m. last night, its Instagram and Twitter accounts had been shut down, and its WordPress domain is now “parked.” Today, the Instagram account is private but seems to have been reset with no posts and no followers.
Before disappearing, the account posted an Instagram Story featuring what appeared to be an exchange of text messages between two individuals. It included accusations against an unnamed man as well as a message reading: “This is all we have to say about the news. We have always gained our courage by the brave ones who have openly and honestly come forward. We stand by them until the end. Above post is shared with permission.”
Yesterday, Adweek and several other trade publications reported that a lawyer representing former CP+B Chief Creative Officer Ralph Watson had filed suit accusing the DMA account, and two “Jane Does” allegedly associated with it, of defamation. Watson’s lawyer said he plans to subpoena the Facebook-owned platform, citing unspecified “California legal precedent.”
The address formerly listed on DMA’s profiles has not returned an email seeking comment today, and it is unclear at this time whether the individuals managing the accounts deleted them voluntarily. An Instagram spokesperson declined to comment.
This is not the first time DMA has disappeared since its first post in late 2017. In early March, the Instagram account went dark for several hours on the same day that a group of women working on the production side of the business posted a letter calling for the group to “dramatically change [its] tactics” or shut down altogether.
The account later reappeared, and at the time a spokesperson for the Facebook-owned platform told Adweek, “Instagram did not disable the account.” The reasons for the shutdown remain unclear.
Diet Madison Avenue, which has described itself as “17 ad junkies exposing Madison Ave sexual harassment & discrimination since Oct 2017, cuz HR won’t,” started quietly on Instagram but gained greater attention after publishing, on Instagram Stories, a list of several prominent men that it implicitly accused of sexual harassment. In many cases, the account did not include specifics regarding the claims made against these individuals. It later posted on the firings of multiple executives, some of whom had appeared on the initial list.
Former employee sues Uber for sexual harassment, discrimination
A former Uber software engineer is suing the company over claims that she experienced sexual harassment, racial discrimination and pay inequity while working there.
Ingrid Avendaño, who worked for Uber from February 2014 to June 2017, filed her lawsuit Monday in California Superior Court. It comes a week after Uber said it would eliminate its forced arbitration policy for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, whether they’re riders, drivers or employees. That decision came after a CNN investigation into sexual assaults and abuse by Uber drivers.
Among the claims in Avendaño’s lawsuit: Uber did not do enough to address allegations of harassment. For example, she said that an engineer “repeatedly made unwelcome, demeaning comments about women” in front of her and other employees and that human resources did nothing when she reported him.
Months later, Avendaño discovered that the same employee told her coworkers that the only reason she had a job was “because she slept with someone at the company,” according to the complaint. She complained again, and the man was fired.
The lawsuit says that Avendaño faced fallout afterward, and was “isolated and ignored by many male Uber managers and other employees” who had worked with the man.
She also claimed that she was inappropriately touched by a senior software engineer and that she witnessed other employees who made inappropriate comments and shared sexually explicit content at work.
Avendaño says she endured emotional and physical stress and was hospitalized as a result of her experience. She eventually resigned “because Uber’s failure to take effective remedial measures threatened Avendaño’s already compromised emotional and physical health.”
She’s asking in the lawsuit to be compensated for lost wages and benefits, and for damages related to emotional distress. She wants to be reinstated to her job at Uber.
Avendaño also wants Uber to be ordered to provide equal employment opportunities and “eradicate the effects of their past and present unlawful employment practices.”
Alex Jones Is Accused of Discrimination and Sexual Harassment by Former InfoWars Employees
Two former staffers at InfoWars have accused founder and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of discrimination and sexual harassment, the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday. Jones allegedly bullied staffers, made anti-Semitic and racist comments, and groped one worker, according to two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints obtained by the publication.
Rob Jacobson, a former video editor who worked for the site for 13 years, alleges his co-workers and managers called him “The Jewish Individual” and “The Resident Jew,” and that Jones regularly humiliated and belittled him. As the Mail reports, “The abuse got so bad that one member of staff photo shopped Jacobson’s face on to the image of an Orthodox Jew under the words ‘THE JEWISH INDIVIDUAL DEMANDS YOUR HOT TOPICS’ and printed it out for all to see.” Jacobson, who was eventually fired, is planning to sue Jones for discrimination, harassment, and unfair dismissal, in addition to his EEOC complaint.
Two former staffers at InfoWars have accused founder and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of discrimination and sexual harassment, the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday. Jones allegedly bullied staffers, made anti-Semitic and racist comments, and groped one worker, according to two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints obtained by the publication. Rob Jacobson, a former video editor who worked for the site for 13 years, alleges his co-workers and managers called him “The Jewish Individual” and “The Resident Jew,” and that Jones regularly humiliated and belittled him. As the Mail reports, “The abuse got so bad that one member of staff photo shopped Jacobson’s face on to the image of an Orthodox Jew under the words ‘THE JEWISH INDIVIDUAL DEMANDS YOUR HOT TOPICS’ and printed it out for all to see.” Jacobson, who was eventually fired, is planning to sue Jones for discrimination, harassment, and unfair dismissal, in addition to his EEOC complaint.
Steve Cohen Asks Court to Dismiss Gender Discrimination Case
Steven Cohen has asked a U.S. federal court judge to dismiss a gender discrimination lawsuit filed against his firm, Point72 Asset Management.
Point72’s lawyer Victoria Woodin Chavey, a principal at law firm Jackson Lewis, filed a motion Wednesday to force Lauren Bonner, the employee suing Cohen and his firm, to settle her claims through out-of-court arbitration. The day before, Chavey had filed a motion requesting that the court documents be sealed. Chavey did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The discrimination suit was filed on Monday by Bonner, an associate director at Point72. It claimed that the investment firm pays women less than their male peers, and keeps women out of leadership and decision-making roles. The court has ordered that Bonner respond to the request to seal the lawsuit by February 16. As of February 15, the court documents were still publicly available.
According to Cohen’s filing, Bonner had signed a contract agreeing to use arbitration, or out-of-court negotiation, to settle any employment-related matters. The motion asked that the court either dismiss the lawsuit, or halt any legal proceedings until the conclusion of the arbitration.
Bonner’s attorney Michael Willemin, a partner at Wigdor LLP, did not return a phone call seeking comment on the matter.
In her lawsuit, Bonner claimed she was paid less than a number of “less experienced and less qualified” men who managed fewer people than she did. Beyond these discrimination claims, the complaint also said that Point72 fostered a culture of sexual harassment, pointing to examples such as a whiteboard with the word “pussy” written across it, which allegedly hung in the office of Point72 president Doug Haynes for weeks.
The lawsuit comes at a crucial time for Cohen, who is raising money for a new hedge fund after a two-year ban from managing outside money. The timing also coincides with a cross-industry movement to call out sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, leading to the dismissal of high-profile men like Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein. Comparatively few sexual misconduct claims have come to light in asset management, but allegations have emerged against biotech hedge fund Orbimed Advisors and alternatives manager TCW Group.
French ‘MeToo’ creator Sandra Muller ‘sued for defamation’
Sandra Muller, the creator of the French equivalent of the “MeToo” movement, says she is being sued for defamation by a man she accused of sexual harassment.
Ms Muller accused former television boss Eric Brion of making a sexually inappropriate advance toward her.
She created #balancetonporc, or “rat on your pig”, which has been used to share stories thousands of times.
Mr Brion admitted making a comment, but said he only did so once.
In a piece for French newspaper Le Monde in December, he apologised for making the crude remark, but said there was a need for “truth and nuance” amid the wave of accusations.
He said his actions had little in common with accusations levelled at figures such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
Mr Brion described the “machine” Ms Muller launched with her tweets as “unstoppable”, and alleged that he had been subject to serious professional and personal repercussions because of it.
He has not yet commented publicly on the alleged defamation case.
Ms Muller used Facebook to announce she is being taken to court.
She alleges he is claiming 50,000 euros (£44,000) in damages for defamation, plus legal costs.
“I will go to the end of this fight with the help of my lawyer and I hope that this trial will be an opportunity for a real debate on how to combat sexual harassment,” she said in her Facebook post.
for coming forward about allegations of harassment or assault.
But the “rat on your pig” movement she created has faced a backlash and created a national debate around what constitutes harassment.
Earlier this month high-profile French actress Catherine Deneuve was one of 100 women who signed an open letter claiming the movement had gone too far. It warned of a new type of “Puritanism” and insisted men should be “free to hit on women”.