New York – The New York Human Rights Commission fined Fox News $ 1 million, the largest penalty it has imposed in its history, for violations of laws that protect against sexual harassment and workplace retaliation.
As part of the agreement, announced Tuesday, Fox also agreed to mandatory anti-harassment trainings for its New York staff and contributors and to temporarily allow people who claim to have been abused under human rights law to file complaints and not be subject to mandatory arbitration.
The sanction stems from an investigation that began in 2017 after several reports of what the commission called “uncontrolled abuse” in the popular news and opinion outlet.RELATED
The first indicator of the channel’s troubles came in 2016 when former news anchor Gretchen Carlson charged that the now-late director of the channel Roger Ailes had had unwelcome advances and had affected his career when he turned it down. Ailes and former Fox star Bill O’Reilly lost their jobs over allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Several other women have come forward in lawsuits and with their own harassment allegations, including former Fox host Megyn Kelly.
The $ 1 million fine groups four “deliberate” violations that carry a maximum penalty of $ 250,000. The commission did not identify the people involved in those cases, or if there were more.
Human rights authorities said they hoped the strong penalty would deter bad behavior in any workplace.
“If people dare to break the law and discriminate or harass people there will be harsh penalties they will have to pay,” said Carmelyn Malalis, president of the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Fox has said the cases are a product of his previous management and the channel has improved its work environment under the leadership of Suzanne Scott, current CEO of Fox News Media. The commission said it did not interview anyone who came forward after Scott took office in 2018.
“We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution on this legacy issue,” Fox said in a statement. “Fox News Media is already fully compliant with the law across its board of directors, but cooperated with the New York Human Rights Commission to continue to enact comprehensive preventive measures against all types of discrimination and harassment.”
The commission said women who rejected the innuendo faced retaliation such as less on-air participation and poor job assignments, as well as eavesdropping on their text messages.
Fox News “made sure that those who denounced had no future” working on the channel, the results show.
In addition to the training requirement, the commission said Fox must maintain an anonymous helpline for employees to report harassment or retaliation. Fox’s compliance will be monitored by outside inspectors four times a year over the next two years.
Malalis said he hopes that the foresight that requires Fox not to insist on binding arbitration to reach legal settlements, forums that often benefit bosses and keep allegations secret, will be a model for similar deals in the future. This provision will be effective for four years. The commission said that everyone who spoke out about harassment and discrimination at Fox was hampered by contractual arbitration requirements.
“This is the essence of ‘me too,'” he said. “We are making this known in public so that people, whether on Fox News or some other corporation, can say ‘this is happening to me.’
People who report will have the option of deciding where their allegations will be released, he said. The agreement does not affect confidentiality agreements, in which some employees who leave the company as a result of the bad behavior of others agree not to discuss the matter in exchange for money.
Malalis said she was unable to speak about the current work environment at Fox. Like many other corporations, many of its employees have been out of the office because of the pandemic.
“I’m not in a position to see what their day-to-day operations are like,” he said. “The intent of this agreement is to shape what is happening at Fox and definitely what will happen at Fox in the future.”
Since 2017, the commission has filed 521 complaints of gender-based harassment in workplaces that add up to $ 4.5 million in compensation and penalties.