Despite Fox News’ claims to have repaired the company’s toxic workplace culture since the firing of founder and chairman Roger Ailes in July 2016, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has effectively admitted to ongoing misconduct that includes sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against victimized employees, and has agreed to pay a million-dollar fine for what New York City’s Commission on Human Rights called “a pattern of violating of the NYC Human Rights Law.”
The settlement agreement, reached last week with the human rights commission, contains the largest-ever financial penalty assessed in the agency’s six-decade history, and also requires Fox News to remove mandatory confidential arbitration clauses from the contracts of on-air talent along with other employees and contributors for a period of four years when they file legal claims under the city’s human-rights law outside of the company’s internal process.
It “also demands immediate changes to policies surrounding reporting sexual harassment, retaliation, training, and compliance with the NYC Human Rights Law,” according to a statement from the commission, which added: “The Commission will monitor the network on a quarterly basis for a period of 2 years to ensure compliance.”
Among the policy changes required by the Commission, the network has agreed to provide all employees with a clear definition of “retaliation” and training for bystanders to intervene in incidents and to properly report any witnessed misconduct.
Labor lawyer Nancy Erika Smith, who represented former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson in the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit that cost Ailes his job (and won Carlson a $20 million settlement from Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox), called the right-leaning cable channel’s settlement agreement, especially its admission of guilt, “monumental.”
Until now, “I’m not aware of any government agency requiring an employer to stop silencing victims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and that’s what NDAs and arbitration do—they silence victims,” Smith told The Daily Beast. “So bravo! Finally! The government is seeing that silencing victims protects harassers.” [Continue reading…]