Fox News fined $1 million for sex harassment and retaliation
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DAVID BAUDER AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City Commission on Human Rights has fined Fox News $1 million, the largest penalty in its history, for vio- lations of laws protecting against sexual harassment and job retaliation.
As part of a settlement agreement announced Tuesday, Fox also agreed to mandate anti-harassment training for its New York- based staff and contributors and to temporarily allow peo- ple who allege misconduct under human rights law to bring claims and not be sub- ject to binding arbitration.
The penalty stems from an investigation that began in 2017 following several reports of what the commission called “rampant abuse” at the popu- lar news and opinion outlet.
The first indication of prob- lems at the channel came in 2016 when former anchor Gretchen Carlson charged that now-deceased network chief Roger Ailes had made unwanted advances and derailed her career when she rejected him. Both Ailes and former Fox personality Bill O’Reilly lost their jobs over misconduct allegations.
Several other women have come forward with lawsuits and their own harassment allegations, including former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly.
The $1 million fine groups four separate “willful and wanton” violations that each carried a maximum penalty of $250,000. The commission would not identify the people involved in those cases, or whether there were more.
Human rights officials said they hoped the large penalty would deter bad behavior at any workplace.
“If people would dare to break the law and discrimi- nate or harass people, there will be stiff penalties they would have to pay,” said Carmelyn Malalis, chair- woman of the city Commission on Human Rights.
Fox has characterized the cases as the product of a pre- vious regime and said the net- work has cleaned up its act under the leadership of
Suzanne Scott, current CEO of Fox News Media. The com- mission said it did not inter- view anyone who came for- ward after Scott took over in 2018.
“We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this legacy matter,” Fox said in a statement. “Fox News Media has already been in full com- pliance across the board, but cooperated with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to continue enacting extensive preventive measures against all forms of discrimi- nation and harassment.”
The commission said 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.
Fox News “ensured that those who have complained have no future” working at the network, it said in its findings.
Besides the requirement for training, the commission said Fox must maintain an anony- mous hotline for employees to report harassment or job retaliation. Fox’s compliance will be monitored by outside inspectors four times in each of the next two years.
Malalis said she hopes the provision requiring Fox not to insist upon mandatory arbi- tration to settle disputes — forums that often benefit employers and keep allega- tions secret — will be a model for similar settlements in the future. That provision will be in place for four years.