“We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this legacy matter. Fox News Media has already been in full compliance across the board, but cooperated with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to continue enacting extensive preventive measures against all forms of discrimination and harassment,” Fox News Media said in a statement to Variety.
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The investigation began in July 2016 after former CEO Roger Ailes was accused of sexual harassment by several female employees, reports of sexual misconduct were revealed to the media as a part of the #MeToo movement and former anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment.
The fine, assigned by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, forces Fox News to acknowledge past incidents of misconduct such as sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against employees. Fox News must also remove mandatory confidential arbitration clauses from the contracts of on-air anchors and employees when they file human rights legal claims outside of Fox News’ internal review process, the settlement states. It also demands an overhaul for policies on reporting sexual harassment and retaliation, handling misconduct and complying with human rights laws. The Human Rights Commission will also monitor Fox News on a quarterly basis for two years to ensure its requests are met, according to the settlement.
“With this settlement, the Commission not only ordered the largest civil penalty in the Commission’s history, but has mandated dramatic and critical policy changes at Fox News Network,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights in a statement to Variety. “Among these policy changes is a remarkable shift in how Fox News Network uses mandatory arbitration. Employers seeking to improve transparency and accountability on discrimination and harassment should look to this change in mandatory arbitration as a model for future policy. The Commission takes all allegations of sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and retaliation very seriously and our settlement today demonstrates that in New York City no one is above the law. Every New Yorker, whether in a newsroom or lunchroom, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in their workplace.”
As part of the agreement, Fox News is expected to train all bystanders to intervene in any witnessed acts of misconduct and to report the incidents and to give all employees a clear definition of retaliation.
“Today’s settlement reflects structural changes within Fox News that will make it easier for employees to report harassment without fear of retaliation or reprisal,” said Sapna V. Raj, Deputy Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “The modification of the mandatory arbitration clause to exclude claims brought under the New York City Human Rights Law will allow for employees, talent, and contributors to bring claims of gender-based harassment to an outside venue, which in turn removes the aspect of secrecy from such claims. The Commission retains the right to add additional penalties to those outlined in this settlement should additional claims of harassment or retailiation be brought forth. The message we are sending is simple: there is no room for discrimination in New York City.”
Ailes’ forced resignation and his sexual harassment allegations became worldwide news and shook up the media industry during the onset of the #MeToo era. Fox News, then parent company, 21st Century Fox launched an investigation into the allegations. After two senior Fox executives, Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy were placed in charge of Fox News, Suzanne Scott was named to head up a broader Fox News Media unit in 2018.
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