Fox News: The Cost of Sexual Harassment

Fox News has gone from being the stolid and leading voice of conservatism in the United States to a network wracked with turmoil.

This week, it was announced that Fox  is losing it’s leading on-air female personality, Megyn Kelly, 46, who is moving to NBC. Her 9 p.m. show, “Kelly File,” was the second-highest rated in cable news. Kelly reportedly eschewed an offer from Fox for more than $20 million per year to extend her contract and stay.

Fox’s turmoil began last Fall when its parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $20 million to former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson to settle a sexual harassment suit filed against Roger Ailes, 76, who led the Fox News network for 20 years. Since then, more than 20 former and current female employees at Fox News, including Kelly, came forward to complain about sexual harassment by Ailes dating back to the 1960s.

Whether or not sexual harassment spurred Kelly’s departure, it played a role in destabilizing the network and made Fox appear vulnerable to other networks in search of top talent.

Clearly, 21st Century Fox was the major loser in this debacle.

At the end of the day, 21st Century Fox’s losses will be staggering.

Ailes left the network with a $40 million golden parachute.  The company lost Kelly and the revenue from her popular cable news show. Fox paid $20 million to Carlson to settle her lawsuit (even though it technically was not even a defendant) and Fox has paid an untold amount to other alleged sexual harassment victims. Perhaps the worst loss suffered by Fox involves it’s most valuable asset – its reputation as a company aligned with traditional American values of decency, civility and respect.

And all that is as it should be. An employer is legally responsible for providing workers with a safe workplace free from bullying and harassment. This blog has long argued that employers that ignore or tolerate a climate of workplace bullying invite, among other things, unnecessary turnover and costly lawsuits. At its core, sexual harassment is a form of workplace bullying. Fox appears to have put anti-harassment policies in place but failed to insure these policies were actually implemented.

Meanwhile, like most abusers,Ailes insists upon his innocence and has not even apologized to Fox.  And, despite wreaking havoc at Fox, Ailes reportedly serves as an adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump, himself a former owner of the Miss Universe Organization who has treated women in a manner that can be charitably described as boorish. (What could go wrong with this scenario?)

Comments

  1. What are the specific laws that say the employer is legally responsible for providing workers with a safe workplace free from bullying and harassment. I know about the protected class laws, not aware of the bully laws, and does safe workplace come under OSHA laws? Is it some combination of distinct laws, one big employment law? Thanks.

    • OSHA, Sec. 5 states: (a) Each employer — (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees .. .

      Federal court decisions generally place the onus on employers to protect workers once they are notified of illegal harassment. They have a duty to act to stop it. Failure to do so can result in liability and higher penalties.

      • Is bullying recognized as an intangible hazard? Or, workplace violence? Is this attached to the EEO laws?
        Does OSHA do investigations?
        I had a interactive interview where i was pressured for weeks to explain why I needed what I need. Would OSHA do an investigation of this because my health was damaged from the process? The discrimination laws do not cover this.

  2. I am thrilled that this is finally coming to light. It’s too late for me to salvage my once promising broadcasting career — I lost that to bullying, harassment and abuse in 1981 at NBC — but it’s about time that the industry, and all industries, get cleaned up and out. I’ve been working on a book about what happened in my case. It’s a long project because it’s graphically based, but I’ll keep you posted.

  3. The twist in Megyn Kelly’s network switch on the tail of harassment charges, is that Fox made a 20 mil per annum grand gesture to get her to STAY. In the not too distant past, a woman’s charges of harassment would have condemned her to being asked to LEAVE, most certainly under the mantle of disgrace. Remember Anita Hill. Big progress!? Yes?

    Kelly is a very strong reporter and I wish her a great career ahead taking Trump and his Cabinet of Trumpets to task along the way!

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