On January 1st, a coalition of women from the entertainment industry teamed up with attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan to create the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. The goal was to help individuals facing workplace sexual harassment connect with legal representation and public relations assistance.
“Although women in Hollywood were experiencing this sexual harassment moment in their industry, they also recognized that as actresses and people who were well known, they could use their voice in the service of others,” said Tina, a PILI Graduate Fellow Alum and partner at Buckley Sandler. “It’s a great moment of solidarity across industries and across incomes and background of women standing together.”
The fund is housed within the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and they have received over 1,000 requests for assistance within the first month. “What we’re finding through this process is that there’s really a huge number of people who are unable to get access to lawyers and legal resources for a variety of reasons,” said Tina. Additionally, many low-wage earners are unable to leave their jobs for economic reasons, even if abuse has occurred.
“There are low-income women who are having to put up with a lot of abuse because they don’t have a choice. They have to put food on the table for their families,” she said. “That’s not something anyone should have to do in order to keep their job.” The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is trying to change this reality and provide individuals with resources to combat abuse. They are now looking for volunteer attorneys to assist these clients.
Attorneys can sign up online to join NWLC’s Legal Network for Gender Equity and assist with these types of cases. When someone contacts NWLC for assistance, they are referred to local attorneys in the area who are part of the network. Volunteer attorneys are then asked to provide clients with a free consultation. Some clients are looking for answers to questions, while others are in need of representation either on a pro bono basis or for a reduced fee.
There are many different types of cases coming through the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, so Tina encourages attorneys from all kinds of disciplines to volunteer. She also says they are putting together training materials as well as a panel of experts who will be able to answer questions.
Tina hopes attorneys will feel inspired to get involved. “This is a great opportunity to provide a voice for these people and to do what we are all trained to do as lawyers – to represent the rights of someone who needs assistance in a very real and tangible way.”
Additionally, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is collecting donations to assist with legal fees for those who cannot receive pro bono assistance. So far, over $20 million has been collected. “I’m really proud of the fact that people have come together to support this fund,” said Tina.
To join the Time’s Up Legal Network and volunteer to assist victims of workplace sexual assault and harassment, visit nwlc.org.
To learn more about Time’s Up and to read a letter of solidarity from women in Hollywood about the issue, visit TimesUpNow.com.