As new revelations of sexual harassment in the workplace continued to spark national debate, on February 2 the NYU Center for Labor and Employment Law held a forum, “Avoiding the Next Harvey Weinstein,” that focused on the non-disclosure agreements that are often part of settlements in sexual harassment cases.
The panelists—US Equal Opportunity Commission acting chair Victoria Lipnic; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe employment litigation practice chair Michael Delikat; Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law Samuel Estreicher; former Maersk Inc. general counsel James Philbin ’92, now of the Philbin Law Firm; Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady partner Zoe Salzman ’07; and Sara Ziff, founding director of the Model Alliance—also discussed various practices for compliance and reporting and the risks of “superstar harassers,” among other topics.
Philbin: “If you’re the Weinstein Company or if you’re Fox News or NBC and you have a prominent television personality engaged in conduct [like sexual harassment], that can be extremely damaging. It can affect your share value, the value of your company. It’ll affect your customer relationships…. If I’m a manufacturer of machine parts for oil rigs, and I have a CEO that commits sexual harassment, it’s probably not going to affect the business, probably not affect the profile. Even in the day of social media, a lot of that stuff is going to fly under the radar.”
Estreicher: “Because of the damage to careers of filing charges with agencies or lawsuits, it’s really important to have a healthy internal alternative [for filing complaints]…. As a practical matter, there’s going to be harm to the reputation of the employee that the law’s not going to reach. I’m not saying to the exclusion of public remedies, I’m saying you really need that internal remedy.”
Lipnic: “One of the big points we talked about in our task force report was what we termed the ‘superstar harasser.’… Not just Hollywood types or in the entertainment industry, but people who are high-valued employees in an organization. So, the professor who gets all the grant money. The surgeon who no one can touch. The businessperson who brings in all the accounts…. It can also be the first-line supervisor who’s just really good at his job but who happens to be harassing people at the same time, so that when there’s some allegation of harassment about that person that is reported to HR or to someone else in the organization, the response is, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t rid of him, he’s so good at what he does.’”
Posted February 27, 2018