Time’s Up Empowerment Group Starts Legal Defense Fund For Sex Harassments

Time’s Up, a group of 300 women in the entertainment industry designed to address what’s described as “the systemic power imbalances that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential,” has started a legal defense fund for sexual harassment claims.

“Earning a living should not come at the cost of anyone’s safety, dignity or morale,” said Shonda Rhimes. “Every person should get to work in an environment free from abuse, assault and discrimination. It’s well past time to change the culture of the environment where most of us spend the majority of our day — the work place. 51% of our population is female, over 30% of our population is of color. Those are important, vital, economically powerfully voices that need to be heard at every level. Time’s Up is working to make sure the people walking the corridors of power within the workplace and in politics truly reflect the full mix of America – the real America that looks like and includes all of us. Look, this isn’t going to be easy but it is right. And fighting for what is right can seem hard. But letting what is wrong become normal is not easier — it is just more shameful.”

The new organization was initiated by four female agents at CAA, including Maha Dakhil, Michelle Kydd Lee, Hylda Queally and Christy Haubegger, quickly adding other actresses, directors, showrunners, film and music executives.

Among the prominent actresses supporting the group are Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Kerry Washington, Lena Waithe, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Ashley Judd; executives Donna Langely and Katie McGrath; creatives Rhimes, Melina Matsoukus, Jill Soloway; lawyers Nina Shaw, Tina Tchen, Anita Hill; and more.

Time’s Up said it will partner with “like-minded organizations to fight for workplaces that are committed to equality and safety, and strive to reach the most dynamic business and creative outcomes possible. We are committed to acting strategically, and delivering real impact that changes industries, and ultimately, the world.”In a statement, Time’s Up said it will work as a “central hub supporting a wide range of initiatives aimed at promoting equality and safety in the workplace.” The initiatives planned cover legislation, corporate policy, hiring practices and aggregating resources, and has several working groups focused on those issues.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, spearheaded by Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan and including some top PR professionals, will help individuals who experience sexual misconduct, including assault, abuse or harassment, find legal representation. The Legal Defense Fund will be housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center and participating attorneys will work with the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity to enable more individuals to come forward and secure legal assistance.

Prior to its formal launch, Time’s Up has already raised more than $13 million dollars from over 200 donors for the Legal Defense Fund to help to defray costs for lawyers and communications professionals from across the country to provide assistance to those who experience sexual harassment.

Founding donors include Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Aniston, Rhimes, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), ICM Partners (ICM), Paradigm Talent Agency, United Talent Agency (UTA), and William Morris Endeavor (WME). The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund will enable individuals to come forward without fear of legal, career or financial retaliation and work toward a culture free from sexual harassment.

“The magnitude of the past few months highlights the fact that sexual harassment against women in the workplace is endemic and touches every industry,” said Tina Tchen, attorney and co-founder of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. “We are a community of women and men who can no longer stand idly by. This is the first of many concrete actions we will take. And we are thrilled to partner with Fatima Goss Graves and the National Women’s Law Center to assure the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund’s success.”

The launch of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is the second action this month from the Time’s Up community. In mid-December, entertainment industry executives, independent experts and advisors came together to create the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. Chaired by Anita Hill, the Commission will lead the entertainment industry toward alignment in achieving safer, fairer, more equitable and accountable workplaces—particularly for women and marginalized people.

“Receiving unanimous support from the entertainment industry’s leaders to form and fund the Commission is an important first step in tackling the broad culture of abuse and power disparity. We all know that safe and inclusive work environments result in stronger and more successful businesses,” said Kathleen Kennedy. “Our goal is to define a work environment where the basic principles of respect, human decency, and equality define the workplace everywhere.”

In addition to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and the Commission, Time’s Up is also working closely with 5050by2020, believing a shift in power and leadership is imperative to make change. The group is advocating for a 50/50 model where women are equally represented at every level—especially in leadership positions and positions of power. 5050by2020 has already received commitments for gender parity by 2020 from leaders in the industry including Creative Artist Agency (CAA) and ICM Partners (ICM).

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