The path to a record-breaking fine for violating sexual harassment and job retaliation started with allegations in 2016 that led to an investigation the following year. Along the way, alleged harassers found themselves out of work. A real-life story that became a multiple Oscar-nominated movie in 2019 depicted the prey and the predators they faced.
An unprecedented punishment
On June 30th, the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced that they had settled with Fox News with the network paying a fine of $1 million. The commission cited four separate “willful and wanton” acts, each with a penalty of $250,000.
Details provided by the commission revealed a hostile workplace where women who rejected advances were punished with fewer on-air appearances, sub-standard assignments, and text messages that were intercepted. Simply put, it was made clear to them that they had no future at Fox News.
In addition to the unprecedented sum, Fox agreed to mandatory anti-harassment training for employees and contributors based in New York. Additionally, those who allege misconduct are not required to enter into binding arbitration for four years. Employees also have access to an anonymous hotline to report harassment and retaliation. Compliance with the ruling will be monitored quarterly by outside inspectors for two years.
Gretchen Carlson was the first to accuse the late Roger Ailes, then the network chief, over unwanted advances. Carlson also claimed that her rejections resulted in a derailing of her career. That one accusation resulted in several women coming forward to file their own legal actions over similar charges.
Fox News claims that the sexually charged and hostile work environment that led to the allegations and subsequent fines was a product of a previous regime.
While the work environment in Fox News generates banner headlines, those in power in other businesses continue to use their influence to create hostile work environments. Turning to an attorney skilled in this area of the law may be the first step in securing justice for victims of harassment and retaliation.