Fox News to pay $10M to end a series of race and gender discrimination suits
- 21st Century Fox, parent company of Fox News and affiliates, will pay $10 million to settle a series of claims, including a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit; a 2016 race-, gender- and pregnancy-based suit by a former reporter for Fox News’ New York affiliate, Fox 5; and a gender discrimination suit by a former Fox News Radio reporter, the New York Times reported. Involved in the suit are 18 current and former employees, according to a document the Times viewed.
- Kelly Wright, Fox News’ only African-American anchor, and several employees in the network’s accounting department filed a suit last year. They said they repeatedly complained about "abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination" to Fox executives, the Times reported. They alleged no action was taken.
- Not long after the settlement was announced, Fox News named Suzanne Scott its new CEO — the first woman to hold the position in the history of the company, CNN reported. Scott was previously the company's president of programming, managing its slew of opinion shows as well as general business operations alongside two other executives, and will now report directly to the company's executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch.
Organizations and their HR officers who ignore or refuse to act on complaints increase their risk for liability — and create a culture that could stifle innovation and success, in the long run. Some reports show that employers haven’t moved as swiftly as expected to curb sexual misconduct, which could worsen employee stress and engagement levels. Proactive response to the problem is key, which includes thanking employees when they come forward with complaints, experts have told HR Dive.
Companies that have tolerated discrimination, purposefully or not, have paid a high social and financial price. Uber, for example, chose to initiate a culture change — the previous company norms touted an aggressive, unrelenting work ethic — after sex discrimination and harassment allegations went public in 2016 and created a media storm that tarnished public perception of the company.
Fox is not the first company to respond to such issues by putting a woman at the helm, either; Nike recently employed a similar tactic after revelations of a toxic work culture led to the resignation of a number of top executives there. More widely, companies have sought to hire leaders focused on diversity initiatives to improve their cultures, as well.
The #MeToo movement highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace, and, more importantly, it has encouraged targets of abuse and its witnesses to come forth with their claims. The pressure is on HR leaders and organizations to consider their commitment to zero-tolerance policies against discrimination and sexual misconduct and take another look at their enforcement efforts to ensure their workers feel safe at work.
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