Is It Legal For Harvey Weinstein's Contract To Have Potentially Allowed For Sexual Harassment?

PHOTO: David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.
This Harvey Weinstein story just gets more frustrating the deeper we get into it, and the latest news, reported by TMZ, is seriously disturbing. According to the outlet, Weinstein's contract at The Weinstein Company allowed for sexual harassment, which is why he is contesting his firing, which occurred after allegations of sexual misconduct were made in articles for both The New York Times and The New Yorker.
Specifically, TMZ reports that Weinstein's contract stipulated that he could be sued for sexual harassment as long as he paid the company back for any money they lost, along with a fine. The contract reads that if Weinstein "treated someone improperly in violation of the company's Code of Conduct" (which Weinstein resigned in 2015 and prohibits sexual harassment), he has to reimburse the company the money for the settlements as well as "pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance."
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This is profoundly horrifying, but is it legal?
"So, if the agreement states what is reported, then the company could have some various serious exposure, as it was complicit in his conduct," said Richard Roth, an NYC-based entertainment attorney who specializes in employment issues. "The preliminary issue is whether the employer knew of the harassment. Here, it appears not only that the company knew, but that it did nothing to protect its employees from the harasser. Worse yet, by placing that language in the agreement, it actually condoned the conduct, stating that it's ok if he does it so long as he pays for it. That provision can cause the company serious exposure, especially when it is claiming it knew nothing of his misconduct."
Basically, this long and complicated legal web is only just getting started.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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