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Weinstein Verdict Emboldens #MeToo Movement

Kristin D. McMahon - Senior Vice President - North America Specialty Claims

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“Watershed Moment for the #MeToo Movement” read the lead article in The New York Times.  “VICTORY FOR #METOO MOVEMENT,” was the cover story headline of The New York Post. The articles appeared on February 25, 2020, the day following the Harvey Weinstein guilty verdict of two sex crimes.  The jury in the criminal trial at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan convicted Weinstein of one count of rape and one count of sexual assault; each of which carries a prison sentence that will be handed down on March 11th.  The verdict is a startling outcome for the once-powerful media mogul who ignited the #MeToo Movement just three years ago.

The movement was sparked by The New York Times and the New Yorker investigations into Weinstein’s sexual misdeeds in using his position as a powerful movie magnate to lure young, aspiring women into compromising sexually charged situations.  The #MeToo Movement has shined a spotlight on unacceptable behaviors in the workplace.  The New York Times article reported that “Mr. Weinstein quickly became a symbol not just of Hollywood’s casting-couch culture, but also of what women had endured in all kinds of workplaces for years.”

Earlier this year, we wrote in a related blog post that the #MeToo Movement had impacted the “C” suite with increasingly more individual and class action lawsuits against corporate practices.  On February 24, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released detailed breakdowns of charges of workplace discrimination received in fiscal year 2019.  Although the number of sexual harassment charge filings remained relatively steady from 2018, the EEOC had a banner year in terms of the amount of money it recovered for sexual harassment victims, securing more than $68 million on their behalf.  That amount is well above the $56 million it recovered in FY 2018, which is a $10 million increase from the prior year.  According to the EEOC, those figures do not include money it obtained through its litigation program.  Allegations are not limited to those defendants who engaged in the harassment, discrimination or retaliation.  Complaints now allege that the corporate parent, high level employees, as well as directors and officers, breached their duties in failing to prevent the alleged misconduct. 

Insurance coverage that responds to workplace misconduct claims is no longer limited to Employment Practices Liability (EPL) sector.  Insurance policies being scrutinized to bear the financial burden of more frequent and severe sexual allegation claims now include every commercial liability segment from General Liability, Directors & Officers Liability, Fiduciary Liability, Fidelity Liability, Errors & Omissions, Miscellaneous Liability, and an expanding array of professional management insurance lines.  Corporations in the United States continue to face heightened and complex workplace liability #MeToo risks.  An aggressive plaintiffs’ bar is driving an influx of lawsuits against corporations and institutions, primarily alleging “negligent supervision” surrounding the sexual offender. 

Corporate employers should work with their broker and insurance partners to deploy a robust risk management strategy focusing on corporate culture, awareness, training, and cooperation. In this regard, Ironshore has joined with a premier law firm to offer Ironshore policyholders free access to a Prevent & Protect PortalThe online portal, designed and maintained by Jackson Lewis attorneys, provides the latest information to Ironshore insureds pertaining to workplace topics to help manage their workforce and reduce potential exposure on employment-related liability claims. 

For more information regarding the Prevent & Protect Portal, please contact: 

RT Thomas
Underwriting Manager, Ironshore Professional Lines
Office: 646-826-6738

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