The world of cable news was rocked last week when former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against the network's chief, Roger Ailes, charging him with sexual harassment. According to the suit, Ailes "unlawfully retaliated against Carlson and sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment."
Ailes and his attorneys quickly rebutted the accusations. They say the network let Carlson's contract expire with Fox News due to her show's performance in the ratings.
Is Ailes the "Bill Cosby of the Media?"
Carlson is now getting back-up from other women, six of whom have told a reporter for New York magazine that they were also harassed by Ailes. Some of the alleged harassment dates back 50 years. Before starting Fox News in 1996, Ailes worked as a television producer and political strategist.
Carlson's attorneys say they were contacted by over a dozen people after Carlson's lawsuit was announced, saying that they had similar experiences. Her attorneys have called Ailes the "Bill Cosby of media." None of the six women who told their stories publicly, however, ever took legal action.
The women who told their stories to New York magazine (two on the record), were reportedly put in touch with the reporter, who wrote a 2014 biography of Ailes. He says the women's stories "portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities." Ailes' attorneys have called these additional allegations "false" and said that Carlson and her lawyers are trying the case in the media.
Private Arbitration or Jury Trial?
Ailes' legal team has filed a motion to handle Carlson's lawsuit via private arbitration rather than a public jury trial. They say her contract with Fox News designated that any employment dispute should be handled in this manner. Interestingly, neither the network itself nor any other executives, including its owner Rupert Murdoch, are named in the lawsuit.
Whatever the truth is in this case, people are often reluctant to speak out about sexual harassment in the workplace for fear of being punished by their employer and perhaps harming chances of future employment in their profession. However, when people have the courage to speak out, with the guidance of an experienced employment law attorney, they can encourage others to do the same and seek justice against someone who acted illegally.
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