Moonves' negotiated exit shows the power of #TimesUp

Months have passed since celebrities first wore Time's Up pins on the red carpet, but the advocacy organizat...

Posted: Sep 11, 2018 12:29 PM
Updated: Sep 11, 2018 12:29 PM

Months have passed since celebrities first wore Time's Up pins on the red carpet, but the advocacy organization hasn't stopped fighting for women facing harassment.

On Sunday, Ronan Farrow published another bombshell investigation in The New Yorker. In his latest story, six new women accused CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves of sexual misconduct.

Moonves, one of America's highest-paid CEOs, stepped down hours later — but still with hope of an eventual payout from his former employer.

"As of a couple of days ago, they were still talking about potentially letting him leave with a very generous exit package, up to the neighborhood of $100 million," Farrow said on CNN. "Many of the women found that very, very frustrating. They felt this was a board that has let a powerful man who makes a lot of money for this company, in the words of one person, 'get away with it.'"

Amidst rumors that Moonves would receive a multi-million dollar "golden parachute" package, Time's Up, released a statement asking for "real change."

In lieu of a rumored $100 million payout, Moonves and CBS will now donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement and other groups fighting for workplace equity for women. That money will be subtracted from any severance money Moonves ultimately receives, and CBS has promised any payment to Moonves "will depend upon the results" of the ongoing internal investigations at CBS.

Time's Up responded with a tweet: "A $20 million donation is a first step in acknowledging that you have a problem, @CBS. But it is far from a solution. You have $180 million set aside to pay Moonves. Use that money instead to help women. Cleansing the company of this toxic culture demands real systemic change."

Progress made

Since January 1, Time's Up has been hard at work creating some of that change.

In October 2017, stunning allegations against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein spurred a nationwide reckoning on sexual harassment. In the following months, Time's Up launched as a coalition advocating for victims of sexual harassment across all industries.

During awards season, celebrities walked the red carpet with Time's Up pins and, most memorably, dressed in all in black for the Golden Globes.

Since then, the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund has raised more than $22 million to help women fight cases of sexual harassment. The fund, housed and administered by the National Women's Law Center, has so far received more than 3,000 requests from women seeking help with harassment in their own workplaces.

These women are reporting a variety of problems to the Legal Defense Fund: some are battling an unresponsive HR, others are struggling to reporting retaliation.

"We've seen a great outpouring of people looking for help," says Sharyn Tejani, director of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. "It's people who have been harassed or assaulted at work years ago and are finally coming forward, it's people who have had something happen to them at work and are not sure at all what to do ... So it's across the map, what we're seeing."

From there, Tejani says more than 700 attorneys have worked with Time's Up to provide free initial consultations for victims. In some cases, Time's Up works with attorneys to fund these cases as they make their way to court.

Progress still to come

But even when high-profile cases fade from the headlines, the #MeToo movement doesn't have an end date, according to its leaders. In March at SXSW, Time's Up founding member Nina Shaw said, "I think there are a bunch of guys waiting for this to be over. It's never going to be over."

In the months since, the Legal Defense Fund has continued to fight for the rights of low-wage workers. This summer it announced outreach grants for organizations supporting vulnerable communities. The grants educate workers about rights regarding sexual harassment and the reporting process.

"The important thing here is it started with these women in Hollywood, and then the connections were made that turned it into something broader, much larger and more expansive than that," Tejani says. "While it may have started in one place, the focus is really on low-wage workers."

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