Conservative opinion outlet Fox News has been fined a record $1 million by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. The agency said the penalty covers repeated worksite sexual harassment of female employees and rampant job retaliation.
David Bauder of the Associated Press has reported that “as part of a settlement agreement announced Tuesday, June 30, Fox also agreed to mandate anti-harassment training for its New York-based staff and contributors and to temporarily drop a policy requiring people who allege misconduct to enter into binding arbitration.”
According to Bauder, “the penalty stems from an investigation that began in 2017 following several reports of what the commission called ‘rampant abuse’ at the popular news and opinion outlet.”
Issues of sexual harassment at the company started in 2016 when former anchor Gretchen Carlson claimed Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who has since passed away in 2017, “made unwanted advances and derailed her career when she rejected him.” Former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly was also later reported to engage in frequent and similar workplace misconduct. Both men ultimately lost their jobs over the allegations.
Following those incidents, numerous other women, including former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, also came forward with their own harassment allegations, some of which led to additional lawsuits against the network.
During its investigation on the matter, the New York City Commission on Human Rights found that “women who rejected advances were retaliated against with fewer appearances on the air and bad work assignments and had their text messages spied upon.”
According to the commission, Fox News also attempted to ensure that “those who have complained had no future” working at the network.
“The $1-million fine groups four separate ‘willful and wanton’ violations that each carried a maximum penalty of $250,000,” Bauder reported. “The commission would not identify the people involved in those cases or whether there were more.”
For its part, Fox News Media has claimed that all of these incidents were a byproduct of former corporate leadership and that under new CEO Suzanne Scott, the company is a completely different place for employees to work.
“We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this legacy matter,” a network spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Even so, Carmelyn Malalis, chairwoman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, told AP that she was encouraged by the size of the fine and hoped it could serve as a possible deterrent to help limit similar bad behavior in other large companies.
“If people would dare to break the law and discriminate or harass people, there will be stiff penalties they would have to pay,” Malalis said. “This is the essence of ‘me, too.’ We’re putting this out in the public so people, whether it is at Fox News or some other corporation, can say ‘This is happening to me.’”