- Major advertisers have pulled out of The O’Reilly Factor, a Fox News broadcast, following sexual harassment claims against host Bill O’Reilly, says the New York Times. A Times investigation into O’Reilly’s alleged sexual misconduct revealed multiple settlements with women plaintiffs.
- The National Organization for Women (NOW), the most prominent women’s advocacy group in the U.S., is pressuring Fox News to fire O’Reilly, who earns $18 million a year and whose show attracts four million viewers a night, writes the Times.
- Pulling out as sponsors of The O’Reilly Factor are Mercedes-Benz, BMW of North America, Hyundai, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Allstate insurance, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer and Sanofi Consumer HealthCare. Fox stands to lose $446 million in advertising revenue.
Sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly follow similar complaints against former Fox executive Roger Ailes, who resigned last year to become an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. Other Fox male executives have been accused of inappropriate behavior, as well, in a corporate culture former female employees say tolerates sexual harassment and other sexual offenses and intimidates claimants.
That's one reason why O'Reilly claiming that the women could have called HR anonymously to deal with it is a bunk argument; the culture in place wasn't going to support or investigate their claims, regardless.
Employers should be investigating all allegations and changing their cultures. Ignoring sexual harassment complaints has proved to be both a legal and public relations nightmare for more than one well-known company. The ride-hailing giant Uber was slow to acknowledge similar allegations and faced public scrutiny in the process. But it eventually became proactive about changing its culture by conducting an internal investigation, replacing its chief HR executive and pledging to end practices that sustain sexual misconduct.
Cultures of intimidation also must end. Employers should encourage workers to file complaints and have procedures in place to make it easier and non-threatening to do so. Having a zero tolerance culture for harrassment is a key part of this.
Employers should keep in mind the social and financial consequences of sexual misconduct allegations, too. Like advertisers in the Fox News case, consumers will pull their dollars from products and services tied to misconduct.