×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

California Lawmaker Calls for Ban on Secret Settlements for Sexual Harassment (EXCLUSIVE)

A California lawmaker said Wednesday she will introduce legislation to ban secret settlements in sexual harassment cases, taking aim at a practice that for decades prevented the surfacing of harassment and sexual assault allegations against disgraced studio mogul Harvey Weinstein.

State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, told Variety she will introduce legislation early next year that prohibits the type of settlements Weinstein paid women that required them to sign nondisclosure agreements.

“We really need to remove the curtain of secrecy about what’s happening,” Levya said in an interview. “Ultimately that’s what hurts victims and enables perpetrators to continue to do this and remain hidden.”

The first-term state senator’s effort is in response to investigative reports published by The New York Times and the New Yorker outlining how Weinstein paid out at least eight settlements to women he had harassed or assaulted. Similarly, ousted Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, settled allegations of sexual misconduct with five women for $13 million, according to a New York Times investigation. The agreements required confidentiality by the women who received the payouts. Fox’s Roger Ailes also hid his sexual misconduct using such agreements.

Because of the secret settlements, perpetrators are largely free to commit the same offenses again and again, Levya said. Her legislation would require such settlements to be made public.

Across the country, women and allies are calling for cultural and policy changes that they hope will empower more victims of sexual harassment and assault to report such incidents. In Hollywood, studio executives and others have begun forming task forces to recommend policy changes and other safeguards. Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president, called for the creation of a commission to combat the problem, and the Producers Guild of America has formed its own task force to research and propose solutions.

Levya, a first-term senator, succeeded last year in eliminating the statute of limitations on rape. The law applies to crimes committed after January 1, 2017. Police in London and New York have begun investigation allegations against Weinstein, but no such inquiries have started in Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, the California law, she said, “might actually be able to help some of these survivors,” she said.

Levya has not yet drafted language for the bill, but said she expects it will receive broad support at the Capitol, where a debate over sexual harassment is also raging, this one among lawmakers themselves.

Female California legislators, staff and lobbyists this week drew attention to the issue of sexual harassment at the Legislature. More than 140 women signed on to a letter that shed light on a “pervasive” culture that they said degraded and demeaned women. Some reported being groped, while others reported sexual innuendos and inappropriate comments.

The California Senate is reportedly examining its procedures related to sexual harassment complaints. Activists say investigation of such complaints should be conducted by an independent body.

“I hope that we are finally at a point in our society to say, enough is enough,” Levya said. “We need to make sure that women understand we are going to have each other’s back.”

More Biz

  • Katie Couric Sheryl Sandberg

    Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview

    Sending a jolt through a luxurious and excessively polite afternoon in Beverly Hills, veteran journalist Katie Couric delivered a relentless series of hardball questions to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. Speaking in conversation at the sixth annual Vanity Fair New Establishment summit at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Couric’s [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Judge Refuses to Dismiss Chicago's Lawsuit Against Jussie Smollett

    A federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the City of Chicago, which is seeking to recoup investigative costs from former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. Judge Virginia M. Kendall rejected Smollett’s contention that he should not be made to pay $130,000 in police overtime costs, plus $260,000 in damages, because he [...]

  • It Is 'Unlikely’ That PledgeMusic Artists

    It Is 'Unlikely’ That PledgeMusic Artists and Creditors Will Be Paid, Receiver Says

    PledgeMusic, the direct-to-fan marketplace that went out of business earlier this year, was more than $7.4 million in debt when it entered liquidation, and its receiver says it is “unlikely” that artists and others owed money by the company will be paid, according to a report from the bank-appointed receiver. “I do not anticipate that [...]

  • Lori Loughlin

    Lori Loughlin Charged With Bribery in College Admissions Case

    Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were indicted on a charge of conspiring to commit federal programs bribery on Tuesday, in connection with allegations that they paid $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California. Loughlin and Giannulli already faced charges of conspiring to commit mail fraud and money [...]

  • Gary Newman

    Fox TV Group Alum Gary Newman Joins Attention Capital as Executive Partner

    Former Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman has joined Attention Capital, the startup venture launched earlier this year by another Fox alumnus, Joe Marchese. Newman and another media biz veteran, Lisa Gersh, were named Tuesday as executive partners of Attention Capital. Newman will focus on acquisition and investment opportunities. Marchese, who previously headed advertising sales [...]

  • Clio-Brand-Storytelling-Award

    Clio Awards, Brand Storytelling Team to Launch 'Storytelling for Good' Award

    Clio, the international advertising awards competition, announced Clio Brand Storytelling, a new program in partnership with Brand Storytelling, a media company exclusively built to support and inspire investment in the practice of brand-funded content. The inaugural Storytelling for Good Award will celebrate branded entertainment and content that promotes or creates awareness for a cause, foundation, [...]

  • Matt Lauer Kurt Sutter

    From Sutter to Lauer, Hollywood Sees a Flurry of Letters From the Edge (Column)

    Let’s talk about the whacked-out letters that hit the media sphere in the past eight days. One was that bizarre mea culpa dropped Oct. 17 by the no-holds-barred showrunner Kurt Sutter in response to getting canned from his series “Mayans MC.” No stranger to complaints of unprofessional behavior on his sets over the years, Sutter [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content