Fox News Corporate Culture Raised Sexual Harassment Problems

TV studio (Fox News sexual harassment)

TV heavyweight Fox News has been plagued with public sexual harassment allegations for nearly a year. But the allegations suggest the corporate culture that created the problem ran even deeper.

In this blog post, I will review the sexual harassment allegations against Fox News starting in 2016. I will discuss how the corporate culture at the company affected gender discrimination claims. I will also explain how changing the climate at your company may open the door to correcting sexual harassment at work.

Fox News Faces Sexual Harassment Claims

Since July 2016, 21st Century Fox, and its news outlet Fox News, have been making a lot of news of their own, and not in a good way. Allegations of sexual harassment, sexism, and misconduct have surfaced one after another for nearly a year. Here’s a summary of the events to date:

  • July 6, 2016: News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
  • July 9, 2016: Republican National Committee field adviser Kellie Boyle, model Marsha Callahan, and four anonymous women accused Ailes of harassing them for decades.
  • July 11, 2016: External law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison investigated the allegations against Ailes for Fox.
  • July 19, 2016: Star reporter Megyn Kelly raised sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.
  • July 21, 2016: Roger Ailes resigned from Fox News without admitting responsibility. He received a $40 million severance package.
  • July 29, 2016: Booker Laurie Luhn said she was “psychologically tortured” by Ailes for over 20 years.
  • August 22, 2016: Co-host Andrea Tantaros filed a separate lawsuit against Fox News for executives sexual harassment and retaliation.
  • September 6, 2016: Fox News settled with Gretchen Carlson for $20 million and a public apology.
  • March 8, 2017: Fox News settled sexual harassment claims by Tamara Holder for $2.5 million.
  • April 1, 2017: The Times reported that reporter Bill O’Reilly and Fox News paid a total of $13 million to 5 women working or appearing on his show in out-of-court settlement of harassment claims.
  • April 3, 2017: Contributor Julie Roginsky filed another sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes and retaliation claims against Fox News Co-President Bill Shine.
  • April 4, 2017: Fox News guest Wendy Walsh held a press conference to raise sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly, which were reported to the network’s anonymous hotline.
  • April 9, 2017: Paul, Weiss announced it would investigate claims against O’Reilly.
  • April 19, 2017: Fox News announced O’Reilly would leave the network.
  • April 21, 2017: Fox News guest Debbie Schlussel raised allegations of improper conduct by Sean Hannity.
  • April 25, 2017: 8 Fox News employees raised racial discrimination claims saying Fox News had “Plantation-style management”.
  • May 1, 2017: Co-President Bill Shine resigned from Fox News.

Fox News Denies Allegations, Despite Repeated Retaliation Claims

Despite the number of complaints and lawsuits Fox News is facing, it continues to deny nearly every allegation of sexual harassment or workplace discrimination. In its settlement with Gretchen Carlson, Fox News publicly apologized “for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all our colleagues deserve.” However, the company has by and large rejected claims that it was not supportive of employees who lodged complaints. 21st Century Fox believes it has done enough to change a poor corporate culture:

“The company's management has taken prompt and decisive action to address reports of sexual harassment and workplace issues at Fox News. . . . These actions have led to an overhaul of Fox News Channel's leadership, management and reporting structure, and have driven fundamental changes to the channel's on-air talent and primetime programming line-up.”

Corporate Culture Discouraged Report of Sexual Harassment

Lilia Cortina, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, told NPR that the problem is that corporations, including Fox News, can have corporate cultures that discourage reports of sexual harassment. Questions of corporate culture include:

  • Whether reports are taken seriously
  • Whether there are consequences to a harasser’s actions
  • Whether those who do report face retaliation against.

Cortina encouraged companies use flexible reporting options including both formal and informal channels. She said the reporting systems should encourage disclosure of all offensive behavior, even if it isn’t serious enough to be illegal. They should assure employees they are safe when they do so and will not be risking retaliation if their report is less severe, or against a company superior.

What You Can Do If You Fear Retaliation

If employees don’t feel safe reporting sexual harassment or workplace discrimination, it is generally because they fear retaliation from their employer. They worry that their superiors will make their work-lives miserable, or will fire them outright. Retaliation for discrimination claims is illegal, but it is still a reality. If you fear retaliation, there are some things you can do before filing your report to protect yourself later on:

  • Document everything using a log
  • Download, print, and preserve your employment reviews and evaluations
  • Recruit witnesses or coworkers who will support your claim
  • Prepare a written complaint (and keep a copy)
  • Talk to an experienced employment discrimination attorney

By bringing in an employment discrimination attorney before you start your complaint process, you can explore your options, make a plan, and prepare for the worst. Having an employment lawyer on your side can help insulate you against retaliation and improve your chances in resolving your sexual harassment claim quickly in a way that protects your rights.

At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, we have sexual harassment attorneys ready to help you fight back against the signs of gender discrimination. We will meet with you and develop a strategy to get you back to a comfortable working environment and protect against retaliation. You don't have to face it alone. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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