Biggest stories of 2017: Harvey Weinstein scandal

One of the biggest HR scandals in recent memory involved top Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

As part of our 2017 Retrospective, HRM Magazine looks back at the most explosive HR stories and happenings of 2017. Read on for part three. 

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With the spate of sexual harassment allegations just in these past three months, 2017 will likely go down in history as the year of holding bad workplace behaviour accountable. 

But one story, in particular, made front pages globally and stayed in news cycles longer than the others. That story involved hotshot Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

In October, Weinstein made headlines everywhere when a New York Times exposé revealed that his sexual indiscretions had resulted in a string of harassment allegations dating as far back as thirty years ago.

Weinstein, the co-founder of two highly-successful film studios – Miramax and The Weinstein Company – had reportedly reached settlements with at least eight women for sexual harassment and assault accusations.

While actresses like Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan were among the many to have come forward with their own stories, many more were non-public figures, with a majority being former employees and associates of Miramax or The Weinstein Company.

In 2015, Lauren O’Connor, who was a book scout at Weinstein Company from January 2014 to January 2016, had recounted in a letter to several executives at the company how a female assistant to Weinstein said she was forced into giving her boss a massage while he was naked.

“There is a toxic environment for women at this company,” O’Connor wrote in the memo, adding that she and other female staffers suspected Weinstein was only using them to set up “liaisons with vulnerable women who hope he will get them work” – in other words aspiring actresses who hoped to make it big.

But she was just one of several women who attempted to reveal the truth, only to be paid to remain silent.

Remarkably, tens of former and current employees of Weinstein, from assistants to senior leaders, told The New York Times they knew what was happening behind closed doors, but only a handful said they confronted him.

But O’Connor, like many before her and since, received a settlement payout of between roughly US$80,000 and US$150,000. The complaints would quickly go away.

HRM Magazine took an in-depth look at what HR could and should have done when the story first broke. Read it here

Today, more women are still coming out of the woodwork with their own tales. Actress Salma Hayek is the latest to do so.

The scandal has also triggered the #MeToo movement, during which thousands of women and men globally have shared personal stories of sexual harassment or assault encountered at the workplace.

Last week, Meryl Streep also added fuel to the campaign when she announced that she, alongside other high-powered speakers like women’s rights pioneer Gloria Steinem, are pushing for workplace equality by 2020 by starting with a list of "non-negotiable" demands.

Since Weinstein, a long list of public figures has had sexual harassment complaints made against them. They include Amazon Studios head Roy Price, NBC news anchor Matt Lauer, CBS talk show host Charlie Rose, actor Kevin Spacey and director James Toback. 

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In our 2017 Retrospective series, we take you through HRM Asia's highlights for the year. Check out the rest of the series here.

 

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