October 17, 2017
Featured on NJ.com – Harvey Weinstein’s potential legal nightmare
Aside from the public relations nightmare that Harvey Weinstein is now facing following the disclosure of his alleged improper acts with both celebrities and employees over several decades, Weinstein also faces potential litigation and criminal prosecution in New York and other states. In addition, courts and legislatures are increasingly hostile to the gag clauses in private settlement agreements requiring victims remain silent about the abuse they suffered.
From the accounts that are now surfacing as a result of The New York Times expose, Weinstein could face criminal charges and civil suits across the country and even internationally as a result of his alleged actions ranging from sexual misconduct, rape, sexual harassment and assault. Although some of the allegations stem from events that occurred almost three decades ago, statutes of limitation may not protect Weinstein from criminal charges.
Each state has different laws concerning statutes of limitation and those statutes also vary in some cases based upon the nature of the act or the age of the victim. In New York, a victim has one year to pursue a suit for simple assault. A victim has three years to file a sexual harassment suit under New York law, but, if the misconduct continued over time, the deadline may not start to run until the last act of harassment.
There is no statute of limitations for criminal prosecution for rape and a five-year statute of limitations for other felony sexual misconduct under New York law. As such, if evidence is found supporting such claims, Weinstein may face prosecution in New York for events that occurred years or even decades ago.
It also is becoming harder to keep complaints of misconduct secret. As more and more celebrities come forward with their own experiences of sexual harassment and improper contact, many politicians and advocates are calling for change to contractual agreements so the widespread abuses can be made public. Many are calling for Weinstein to release numerous non-disclosure agreements he entered into with women concerning his improper acts so that victims may now tell their story. Furthermore, in The New York Times article, it was alleged that contracts between employees of the Weinstein Company had specific provisions in which employees could not disparage or disclose information about the company or the key members in a manner which would have a negative impact on their reputation or image. Lawmakers in New York are now seeking to end these confidentiality agreements which essentially shield workplace sexual misconduct or harassment.