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If the widely-reported allegations flowing from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements weren’t enough of a wake-up call for New York corporations, the New York Attorney General has issued a sharp warning about systemic workplace sexual harassment that all organizations doing business in New York state, and their principals, directors, managers and employees, would be wise to heed. On Feb. 11, 2018, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against The Weinstein Company (TWC), its parent holding company, and co-owners Harvey and Robert Weinstein, alleging workplace sexual harassment that spanned more than a decade. Under the broad scope of New York Executive Law §63(12), the Attorney General brought claims of “repeated and persistent illegality,” of which corporate management and directors were allegedly aware, but failed to adequately investigate or stop. With that filing, the Attorney General made clear that organizations doing business in New York now have much more to fear than private actions alleging sexual harassment. The Attorney General sent a strong message that companies and individuals that allow or foster workplace sexual harassment, fail to take adequate steps to prevent it in the first place, or fail to investigate and address complaints that are made, can incur severe consequences backed by the full investigative and enforcement power of the government. And, for organizations that wisely choose to be proactive in preventing workplace sexual harassment, the Attorney General’s lawsuit provides a roadmap for implementing effective compliance programs and enhancing existing programs to ensure that their employees are not victimized by sexual harassment and that they and their principals, directors, managers and employees are not on the receiving end of similar Attorney General actions.

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