Weinstein conviction highlights changing response to harassment

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2020 | employee rights |

Many people in California have been watching the Harvey Weinstein trial closely, especially as it has marked a major moment in the response to sexual harassment on the job. The Weinstein case largely inspired the #MeToo movement that exposed workplace harassment in a range of industries, from Weinstein’s Hollywood entertainment industry to technology, politics and health care. On Feb. 24, 2020, Weinstein was convicted in criminal court of rape and a criminal sexual act, a step that rarely follows from a sexual harassment complaint. Many advocates hailed the conviction as a step forward that represents changed thinking about how victims’ complaints are addressed.

Weinstein case based on victim testimony

The complaint in the Weinstein case was largely based on victim and witness testimony, rather than forensic evidence. It has traditionally been difficult to garner criminal convictions in sexual assault cases without physical evidence. Weinstein’s defense claimed that the sexual contact in the case was consensual, especially as they could document that some women had retained a friendly or professional relationship with Weinstein. However, the case successfully highlighted a significant factor in many workplace harassment cases, the power differential between perpetrator and victim.

Many sexual harassment cases go unreported

In fact, many workplace harassment cases are never reported. While over 40% of women say that they have experienced some type of unwanted sexual behavior on the job, far fewer of them have filed a report or complaint. In many cases, perpetrators are senior employees or managers with the power to fire or demote the workers involved. In other cases, workers may fear retaliation if they file a complaint. Retaliation is one of the most common components of harassment claims, and victims may be concerned that they will be viewed as difficult, unreliable employees if they assert their rights.

Despite the Weinstein conviction, many employees continue to suffer from serious incidents of sexual harassment on the job. If you are being harassed, you may be unsure about the next steps to take. An employment law attorney may offer advice and guidance on how you might protect your rights and seek accountability.