Legal defence fund launched in US to combat sexual harassment

 

Hollywood actors including Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Reese Witherspoon and others in the entertainment industry in the US have set up a legal fund to help women who have been sexually harassed at work take legal action against their abusers.

The National Women’s Law Center in the US launched the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund this week and British MP Jess Phillips tweeted that a UK version was being worked on. The US launch coincided with a full-page open letter in the New York Times by actresses including Ashley Judd, Rashida Jones and Eva Longoria. It states: “The struggle for women to break in, to rise up the ranks and to simply be heard and acknowledged in male-dominated workplaces must end; time’s up on this impenetrable monopoly.”

The $13m Fund was created by attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan and actors and others in the entertainment industry “to help connect individuals facing sexual harassment or related retaliation with legal representation and provide resources to help fund that representation”.

The Fund will be housed and administered by the National Women’s Law Center and the participating attorneys will be working with the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity. The Center says access to prompt and comprehensive legal and communications help will empower  individuals and help fuel long-term systemic change.

It states that the Fund “will enable more individuals to come forward and be connected with lawyers — regardless of industry, rank or role”.  The Center says: “This effort is not just to support women in Hollywood, but others in need – the factory worker, the waitress, the teacher, the office worker, and others subjected to this unacceptable behaviour. Now is the time to finally stop the sexual harassment and retaliation that has often gone unchecked.”

The Legal Nework for Gender Equity is the first national legal network in the US to combat sex discrimination faced by women and girls. The Legal Network will provide information enabling those facing sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination to access the legal resources they need to fight back. It has initially recruited more than 220 attorneys from across the country who will provide at least one free legal consultation and, when appropriate, represent women and girls who experience sex discrimination on the job, at school and in the healthcare system.



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