New York’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

In court papers filed in Manhattan on Sunday, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the Weinstein Co “repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination”.

Mr Schneiderman said any sale of the company “must ensure that victims will be compensated” and that employees will be protected.

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He launched a civil rights probe into the New York City-based company in October after The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed allegations of sexual assault and harassment spanning decades.

“To work for Harvey Weinstein was to work under a persistent barrage of gender-based obscenities, vulgar name-calling, sexualised interactions, threats of violence, and a workplace general hostile to women,” according to court papers.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, released a statement on Sunday evening saying many of the allegations against his client are “without merit”.

“While Mr Weinstein’s behaviour was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC,” Mr Brafman said.

Harvey Weinstein allegationsThe Weinstein Co sacked its former co-founder

Weinstein was fired by the film company he founded with his brother Robert and expelled from Hollywood’s movie academy.

The company and co-owner Robert “are liable because they were aware of and acquiesced in repeated and persistent unlawful conduct by failing to investigate or stop it,” court papers said.

Representatives for Weinstein have previously denied all accusations of non-consensual sex.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement that it brought the lawsuit on Sunday partly due to reports of the company’s imminent sale, saying it believed it would leave victims without adequate redress.

“Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enables will be unjustly enriched,” court papers said.