21st Century Fox announced yesterday that Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network and Chairman of Fox Television Stations has resigned from his role effective immediately. Robert Murdoch will assume his roles.
As previously reported, Fox news anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment earlier in the month. Ailes has denied all allegations. Internal investigations were triggered and since then, more than 20 women have made accusations of sexual harassment. Megan Kelly, a high-profile Fox News anchor may have been harassed and might be involved with an outside investigation into Ailes’ behavior.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit against Mr. Ailes continues to grind on. Recently, Ms. Carlson’s lawyers asked a New Jersey federal judge to dismiss Mr. Ailes’s motion that the case be sent to New York Federal court and then submitted for arbitration. According to the EEOC, “By taking discrimination claims out of public view, forced arbitration can prevent employees from learning about similar concerns shared by others in their workplace and can impede the development of the law. It can also weaken an employer’s incentive to proactively comply with the law, when the organizations are not held publicly accountable for violations of anti-discrimination laws.” In Ms. Carlson’s case, the contract she signed with Fox News required “all filings, evidence and testimony connected with the arbitration must be held in strict confidence” and also “all allegations and events leading up to the arbitration” must be too. In this regard, Ms. Carlson can’t even tell the world what she claims happened to her. However, Ms. Carlson never agreed to arbitrate anything with Mr. Ailes
After the Dov Charney, CEO for American Apparel, sexual harassment allegations, employees were required to sign arbitration agreements with extremely broad confidentiality clauses. In some instances, a clause said that an employee would have to pay $1 million in the event of a breach.
The Ellen Pao case illustrates why plaintiffs should have the right to bring discrimination cases publicly. In her case, Pao alleged gender discrimination against a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. The company prevailed, but the debate that followed did more to change conduct than any private arbitration.
Most people who suffer sexual harassment in the workplace suffer quietly, and when they get fired, they tend to move on. This is a far more common response than people filing suit and fighting back. Regardless, it should now be understood that women will no longer tolerate sexual harassment and will speak about this troublesome issue.