US legal defence fund will fund grassroots rights groups

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The legal arm of Time’s Up, the anti-sexual harassment initiative started by women in Hollywood, has announced that it will award grants of up to $50,000 aimed at helping women in lower-wage jobs protect themselves from sexual misconduct.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund will award the grants to non-profit organisations serving low-income working women such as hotel and restaurants workers, factory workers and nurses, including those who have experienced sexual misconduct at work.

“For too long, sexual misconduct in the workplace has gone unchecked and too many people, particularly those working in low-wage jobs and women of colour, have not known where to turn,” said Fatima Goss Graves, a co-founder of the fund and president of the National Women’s Law Center, which houses and runs the legal fund.

“Our hope is that we can support outreach to people so that they can learn about their rights.,” she said.

More than 2,700 people have already contacted the legal fund, but Goss Graves said the grants are aimed at education and reaching people who may be unaware of their rights.

“We want to overcome some of the barriers that people may have in coming forward in the first place,” she said. “One of things we know about this new awareness around harassment and violence is that for the first time people are learning about their rights.”

The National Women’s Law Center will review the proposals and make awards based on factors that include the organisation’s “demonstrated commitment to advocacy on behalf of workers’ rights”, the fund said.

Potential programmes that could get funding include helping employees learn how to address workplace misconduct or “know your rights” workshops on sexual harassment and retaliation.

Groups will have until June 29 to apply for pieces of the $500,000 in funding. The fund hopes particularly to reach marginalised groups.

The group announced in March that it had raised $21 million for the legal defense fund.

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