New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened an inquiry into the Weinstein Co., examining whether allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against its co-founder Harvey Weinstein reflect broad gender discrimination and other civil rights violations.
“No New Yorker should be forced to walk into a workplace ruled by sexual intimidation, harassment or fear,” Schneiderman said in a statement Monday. “If sexual harassment or discrimination is pervasive at a company, we want to know.”
On Monday, the attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau sent a subpoena to the company seeking a long list of documents, including personnel files; criteria for hiring, promoting and firing; formal and informal complaints of sexual harassment or other discrimination based on gender or age; and records showing how such complaints were handled, according to a person who has seen the confidential subpoena and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The office is also seeking any documents and communications related to private out-of-court settlements struck with accusers, the person said.
The inquiry will also examine whether the company itself bears financial responsibility for any misconduct.
The New York Times reported this month that Weinstein had faced allegations of sexual harassment, unwanted touching and other inappropriate behavior toward employees and actresses stretching back decades. It also found that he had made payments to at least eight women who accused him of sexual harassment, unwanted touching and other inappropriate behavior in exchange for their silence, but it was unclear where the money came from and whether people in the company were involved.
In addition to the civil case, Harvey Weinstein has come under criminal investigation by police in New York, Los Angeles and London for allegations of sexual assault in those three jurisdictions. The New Yorker documented some assault cases, including allegations of rape, and in recent weeks other women have come forward with claims of assault and misconduct by Weinstein over more than three decades.
Civil investigations of this kind can prove costly for companies. Those found in violation of civil rights laws can face fines and other financial penalties. In 2015, ConEd was required to pay $3.8 million to hundreds of female employees after an investigation by the attorney general and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found violations of sexual discrimination and harassment dating back nearly a decade.