$20 million dollars later (!) Fox News settled Gretchen Carlson’s claim against Roger Ailes.
Not only that, but Fox issued an apology to boot:
“We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve,” 21st Century Fox says in part of that statement.
Carlson’s lawsuit against Fox’s chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, garnered unprecedented national attention and influenced several other women to come forward with allegations against Ailes.
Let’s recap some of Carlson’s more egregious allegations of unequal treatment by Fox male executives and Ailes’s blatant sexual harassment of the TV news host:
- Ailes “ogled” her in his office and asked her to turn around so he could view her from behind;
- Ailes suggested that she wear certain outfits to show off her figure and commented “repeatedly” about her legs;
- When Carlson complained to Ailes, Ailes “unlawfully retaliated” against her and “sabotaged her career after she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment”;
- According to the complaint, Ailes responded, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better”;
- Carlson’s co-host, Steve Doocy, grabbed her arm on air and attempted to “shush” her during a live telecast; and
- Doocy belittled her during commercial breaks and “generally attempting to put her in place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop.”
As I explained here and here, such incidents may constitute sexual harassment, i.e., severe and pervasive unwelcome conduct that so permeates the workplace as to create a hostile work environment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 proscribes this type of conduct.
Further, reducing a news employee’s compensation, denying her high-profile interviews, reassigning said employee to a lesser time slot, and then (surprise!) failing to renew her contract, is classic retaliation, also prohibited by Title VII. Once an employee complains about discrimination to HR, a supervisor, or even the boss, if the employer then takes an “adverse action” including termination of the employee, the employer can be held liable for retaliation against the employee for complaining about discrimination.
Takeaway: As Fox News can tell other employers now, turning a blind eye to such behavior can cost you—$20 Mil in this case.