16 Mar 2018

Law firms 'blacklist' #MeToo blog

4:13 pm on 16 March 2018

A legal researcher says three law firms and a government agency are stopping their staff from sharing stories of workplace harassment. 


Law statute books

Photo: Diego Opatowski/RNZ

A blog allowing workers in New Zealand’s legal industry to share stories of harassment has been “blacklisted” by at least three law firms and a Government agency, its founder says. 

Legal researcher Zoe Lawton set up the #MeToo blog on February 28, in the wake of serious allegations of sexual assault at top law firm Russell McVeagh. 

In its first week, it received more than 100 posts, mostly from women. 

But Lawton says that the number of people posting has dropped dramatically this week, due to employers “clamping down” on their staff. 

“I've only received just over 10 more [posts] in the second week,” Lawton says.

“I have been informed by several sources that a number of law firms and a government agency have blacklisted me and told their staff not to associate with me or to post anything on the blog.” 

She also believes her email address has been blocked by some law firms so that she can’t email their staff. 

“I think there is a lot of fear and intimidation out there. Several people who posted in the first week have been identified by the perpetrator and have suffered retaliation... threats that they will ruin their reputation and career.”

Lawton says she has been contacted by “several” employment lawyers with clients taking complaints to their employer, the police or the Human Rights Commission, who have told her about the “blacklisting”.

“I've heard it has been verbal in meetings and that there may have been some emails circulated, but I haven't seen copies yet,” Lawton says.

She says she was also informed of a government agency blacklisting her blog today. 

Lawton is urging anyone who has evidence of the blacklisting to contact her directly. 

“It's important that the Minister of Justice and the media knows that there are powerful people with a lot to hide who are trying to intimidate me and silence other whistleblowers,” she says.