Posted on March 01, 2019 in Sexual Harassment
In Early January, actress Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment claim against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was thrown out of court. This is the second time a Los Angeles federal court judge dismissed her claim that Weinstein sexually harassed her during an encounter in a California hotel room.
While this legal setback has been discouraging to Judd’s supporters and members of the #MeToo movement, she does have the green light to pursue additional claims of defamation and retaliation against Weinstein.
Ashley Judd alleges that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited her to his hotel room on at least one occasion back in the 1990’s. She claims that during that visit, Weinstein asked her for a massage and invited her to watch him shower.
In April 2018, Judd filed a lawsuit claiming that Weinstein tarnished her reputation and damaged her career after she declined his advances. Multiple entertainment industry insiders cited at least one scenario where Judd was up for a notable role in an Oscar-winning movie trilogy, but was later passed over after Weinstein allegedly told producers she was a “nightmare” to work with.
In September, a federal judge ruled that Judd’s allegations did not constitute sexual harassment, because at the time of the incident the two were not involved in a professional, working relationship. He did, however, give Judd the go-ahead to continue with her claims for defamation and retaliation.
In the months since Judd’s claim was first dismissed, the California Legislature amended the law to apply sexual harassment law to producers and directors among other types of professionals. Judd’s sexual harassment lawyers’ attempts to apply the amended law retroactively were dismissed as well.
Judd and her attorneys will move forward with the additional claims. Weinstein’s attorney calls Judd’s claims, “unjustified.”
Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims
The law defines workplace sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature” that interferes with a person’s ability to do their job. Generally, one off-color joke or lude comment does not constitute sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is usually especially egregious or persistent unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 names two different types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo involves a person in authority who demands that a subordinate tolerate sexual harassment to keep their job or receive some work benefit. A hostile work environment is a pattern of harassment that makes work unbearable for the victim.
As the recent dismissal of Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment claims demonstrates, it is not always clear what constitutes a professional employment relationship or even sexual harassment. Because sexual harassment is often subtle, these claims can be challenging to prove.