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Hollywood looks to stamp out sexual harassment in some not-as-glamorous fields

Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The legal arm of Time's Up, the anti-sexual harassment initiative started by a group of powerful women in Hollywood, 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 nonprofit organizations serving low-income working women, including those who have experienced sexual misconduct at work.

That could include groups working with service industry employees, including hotel and restaurant workers, nurses and farm and factory workers.

"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 color, have not known where to turn," said Fatima Goss Graves, a defense fund co-founder 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 bestow awards based on factors that include the organization's "demonstrated commitment to advocacy on behalf of workers' rights," the fund said.

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

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Groups will have until June 29 to apply for some of the $500,000 in funding. The fund hopes particularly to reach groups that have ties to communities of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; immigrant populations; and people with disabilities.

The group announced in March that it had raised $21 million for the legal defense fund, with Tina Tchen, who served as chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, saying it wouldn't be nearly enough to keep up with the demand for legal support.

Time's Up was formed soon after The New York Times reported in early October that Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein for decades had reached multiple settlements with women who had accused him of sexual misconduct.

In November, women who work in agricultural fields and packing houses wrote a letter of solidarity to the celebrities, noting that "countless farm worker women across our country suffer in silence because of the widespread sexual harassment and assault that they face at work."

"Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security," wrote the women with the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an organization of current and former women farmworkers.

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