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Sexual Harassment and Assault: How Labor Unions Are Responding to Recent Allegations Against Top Hollywood Moguls

November 30th, 2017

By: Lauren M. Hoye

Sexual Harassment and Assault: How Labor Unions Are Responding to Recent Allegations Against Top Hollywood MogulsWhether on social media, on television, or in print, you have undoubtedly already heard of the allegations made in recent weeks against top Hollywood moguls such as Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Russell Simmons, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. (among others). From claims of hostile working environments to sexual assault, the allegations reveal a dark underbelly of the entertainment industry.

In the wake of these revelations, SAG-AFTRA, which represents over 150,000 industry performers, including actors, announcers, dancers, recording artists, stunt performers, and others, has asked itself, as have other labor unions: how can we do more to protect people in the workplace from sexual harassment and assault?

Earlier this month, SAG-AFTRA kicked off a forum on sexual harassment at its headquarters in Los Angeles, where members of the union participated in the first of a series of educational seminars on these issues. Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents multiple women alleging wrongdoing against Weinstein, spoke at the seminar, as did several women who work in the entertainment industry, including SAG-AFTRA President, Gabrielle Carteris. At the seminar, the union outlined the resources that it makes available for its members, including a 24-hour safety hotline that members can use to anonymously report concerns. The union cited a 500 percent increase in reporting since the Weinstein scandal came to light. Union members at the seminar were also encouraged to submit written or verbal workplace complaints to staff on hand at the event, and were given handouts detailing reporting options, crisis support resources, and complaint filing deadlines.

Also in response to the Weinstein scandal, the AFL-CIO has formed a cross-industry working group to deal with the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. This group will attempt to develop best practices and tangible resources that will ideally make it easier for people to speak out and get a meaningful response when they do. The working group will develop best practices not just for the entertainment industry, but also for all workplace settings.

Labor unions are also looking inward. In Canada, ACTRA Toronto, which represents performers in the film, radio, television and new media industries, has reportedly hired a lawyer to review its internal sexual harassment policies. At the AFL-CIO national convention in October, President Richard Trumka reportedly read from the organization’s own code of conduct and gave out the contact information for those individuals designated to field complaints about sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, labor unions have the opportunity to empower, educate, and provide resources to their members, as demonstrated by SAG-AFTRA. The door is now open for labor unions to look critically at their own practices and policies, and to call on employers to evaluate their own practices to ensure that all workers are treated fairly in the workplace.

To learn more about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, check out Deborah R. Willig’s interview with 6ABC and Ryan A. Hancock’s interview on KYW.

If you have questions about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, please contact the labor and employment lawyers at Willig, Williams & Davidson at (800) 631-1233.


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