It’s been just two months since Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment against news boss Roger Ailes in the state Superior Court of New Jersey. Since that suit was filed the network took swift investigative action that not only confirmed Carlson’s claims, but also found that some two dozen women were treated similarly. In response, Fox has settled with Carlson out of court, offering both a reported $20 million dollar in compensation and a very public apology that read in part, “We sincerely apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all our colleagues deserve.”
Legal experts and court watchers have indicated that one of the most notable aspects of the large settlement, and particularly of the apology, is that it may point to similar treatment of other women who have filed similar suits. To date only one other former Fox News host, Andrea Tantaros, has filed suit, but more are expected.
According to a plaintiffs’ attorney who specializes in sexual harassment, “To the extent that other women have claims, Fox News will be writing out quite a few settlement checks. I think there is a clear acknowledgement by Fox in its apology statement that Ailes engaged in wrongdoing. From what we’ve all been reading, there’ve been dozens of other women who’ve come forward.” Another expert speculates that the network’s attorneys calculated how many claims they were likely to see in the future, as well as the network’s chances of winning each individual suit.
Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit can provide a roadmap to those who are considering filing a lawsuit in the future. Because her employment contract required mandatory arbitration for this type of claim, there were questions as to whether her suit would be successful. But by naming only the Fox News chief as a defendant rather than the network as a whole, she successfully put the spotlight on the perpetrator and forced the network into a slightly different position, where they were forced to investigate and acknowledge the inappropriate actions of their employee.
One of the things that is most disappointing to the many women who have been victims of sexual harassment is the fact that Ailes will not be required to pay any kind of restitution to Carlson. The $40 million severance package that he received adds insult to injury, particularly as he continues to deny the allegations against him. But speaking for herself, Carlson indicated that she accomplished what she set out to do.
If you have been the subject of unwanted advances in your workplace, and/or you have been punished or retaliated against as a result, then you need an experienced and knowledgeable advocate like the employment law attorneys at Schorr & Associates working on your behalf.