In early July, I wrote about how Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. At the time, some came to the defense of Ailes–most notably Donald Trump–while many others suspected the truth of the matters alleged. Since the lawsuit was filed, other sexual harassment allegations against Ailes have surfaced.
Now, we know the truth.
Yesterday, Fox New apologized for the reprehensible conduct that Ailes inflicted, saying in a press release:
We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.
The press release also announced that Carlson would be paid $20 million as part of the settlement, a staggering amount for a sexual harassment case settlement.
The Results of This Lawsuit Should Be Seen as a Significant Victory for Women
Women do not have to accept second class citizenship at work, nor should women be expected to have sex with–or otherwise flirt or play with—her boss as a job requirement.
The settlement and related publicity should send a loud message to corporate America – if a CEO (or other executive or manager) engages in the sexualization of women at work, they – and their company – may pay an outsized price for allowing such demeaning conduct.
What This Settlement Means for Working Women
Probably not much. The average sexual harassment case settlement or award is in the range of 6 to 12 months of the victim’s annual salary, meaning that the chances that your sexual harassment case will yield $20 million is about the same as winning the Powerball lottery, and that includes women subjected to far worse treatment than that suffered by the wealthy and privileged Carlson. The good news is that the white hats won another one, Ailes was outed as a sexist boor–and fired from Fox News (with a $40 million dollar severance package to ease the pain).
Most importantly, the Gretchen Carlson case moves the needle up and pushes feminism forward (defining feminism as the radical notion that women are people and equal to men), because it raises awareness, and further removes the stigma and taboo of acknowledging and reporting unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace, which is definitely illegal.
If sexual harassment can happen to “powerful” media star women like Carlson and Megyn Kelly, then it can happen to the average Jane who works for a living, and if the country can rally round, support and #StandWithGretchen, then you too can speak truth to power, and stand up and fight for your right to be equal, if and when non-consensual sexual conduct at work interferes with your job, your career or your independence.
We treat all our clients as if they’re Gretchen Carlson celebrities and we fight hard to bring justice to those situations, where the victims of sexual harassment don’t enjoy the luxury of independent wealth and societal privilege. Those hard working women who paved the path for Gretchen Carlson are the true unsung heroes and foot soldiers who handed Carlson her victory, and it is those women that this firm salutes and continues to represent with pride.
Whatever your position or status, if you’re confronted with uncomfortable sexualizing behavior at work, #dontquit before calling us for a free legal consultation.