Tennessee residents may be aware that Fox News became mired in a sexual harassment controversy after Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit in July 2016 accusing the network’s former CEO Roger Ailes of making unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances toward her. The ensuing media storm led to a precipitous ratings drop, prompting the network to oust Ailes and sever ties with some of its most popular figures. Media outlets reported on May 16 that 21st Century Fox has agreed to pay about $10 million to settle workplace discrimination lawsuits filed by 18 former Fox News workers.
The news of the settlement comes less than two years after 21st Century Fox paid $20 million to settle the Carlson lawsuit. The controversy has also aroused the interest of regulators and hindered the company’s business dealings. Reports suggest that the settlement was reached after several rounds of mediation, but they provided few details about how the money will be divided between the workers or when it will be paid.
An investigation ordered by 21st Century Fox is said to have uncovered a toxic workplace environment where racial and sexual discrimination and harassment was routine and accepted by senior executives. The most recent round of lawsuits was filed by both Fox News presenters and backroom workers who say that they were treated poorly and regularly demeaned because of their race. The network is also accused in the litigation of taking retaliatory action against workers who made complaints or aired their grievances in public.
Not all the victims of workplace discrimination are employed by companies with reputations as fragile as a cable news channel, but that does not mean that their employers lack good reasons to settle this kind of legal action quickly. Allegations of sexual or racial discrimination can lead to official investigations and severe sanctions, and attorneys with experience in this area may remind companies of this during settlement negotiations or mediation.