The Human Rights Commission of New York City has fined Fox News $1 million for violating laws against sexual harassment and job retaliation.
NEW YORK — The New York City Commission on Human Rights has fined Fox News $1 million, the largest fine in its history for violating laws against sexual harassment and job retaliation.
As part of a settlement agreement announced Tuesday, Fox agreed to mandate anti-harassment training for its New York-based employees and contributors and to temporarily drop a policy requiring those who enter binding arbitration. to allege misconduct.
The punishment stems from an investigation that began in 2017 after several reports the commission called “mass abuse” on popular news and opinion outlets.
The first signs of problems at the channel came in 2016 when former anchor Gretchen Carlson alleged that now-deceased network chief Roger Ailes had made unwanted advances and that his career was derailed when he rejected her. Ailes and former Fox personality Bill O’Reilly both lost their jobs over misconduct allegations.
Several other women have come forward with lawsuits and harassment allegations of their own, including former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly.
The $1 million fines group four separate “intentional and willful” violations that each carried a maximum fine of $250,000. The commission would not identify the people involved in those cases, or whether there were others.
Human rights officials said they hope the big fines will deter any workplace bad behavior.
“If people dare to break the law and discriminate against or harass people, they will be severely punished,” said Carmeline Malalis, chair of the City Commission on Human Rights.
Fox has portrayed the cases as a product of the previous regime and said that the network has cleared its act under the leadership of Suzanne Scott, the 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 delighted to have reached an amicable resolution of this legacy matter,” Fox said in a statement. “Fox News Media is already in full compliance across the board, but has collaborated with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to continue taking comprehensive preventive measures against all forms of discrimination and harassment.”
The commission said women who declined advances were retaliated with low on-air attendance and poor work assignments, and their text messages were spied on.
Fox News “ensures complainers have no future” while working at the network, it said in its findings.
In addition to requiring training, the commission said Fox must maintain an anonymous hotline for employees to report harassment or job retaliation. Fox’s compliance will be monitored by external inspectors four times each over the next two years.
Malalis said he hopes Fox doesn’t need to insist on mandatory arbitration to settle disputes — platforms that often benefit employers and keep allegations a secret — with a view to a similar settlement in the future. model will be. This provision will be for four years.
“That’s the essence of ‘me too’,” she said. “We’re making it public so that people, whether it’s at Fox News or any other corporation, can say ‘this is happening to me.'”
He added that people with complaints will have their own choice as to where they can air their allegations. The agreement does not affect confidentiality agreements, in which some employees agree not to discuss matters in exchange for money leaving the company as a result of the misdeeds of others.
Malalis said she can no longer talk about the work environment at Fox. Like many other corporations, many of its employees have been out of office due to the pandemic.
“I’m not there and can’t see what their day-to-day operations are,” she said. “It was the intention of this agreement to reflect what is happening at Fox now and certainly what will happen at Fox in the future.”
Since 2017, the commission has filed 521 claims of gender-based workplace harassment, estimating $4.5 million in damages and penalties.