On September 6, 2016, a settlement was announced in the sexual harassment / hostile work environment lawsuit filed by former co-anchor Gretchen Carlson against Fox News. The settlement will result in the payment of $20 million to Ms. Carlson, accompanied by a highly unusual public apology. The joint press release from Carlson and Fox included a statement from Fox – “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect that she and all our colleagues deserve.”
A few other facts and observations in the wake of this announcement:
- When harassment of this nature, and what is termed “a hostile work environment”, are present in a firm, investigations around a singular complaint typically result in identifying additional accusers and victims. In the case of Fox, there are at least two other known claimants who have also raised concerns about the environment and behavior to which they were subjected. These cases are still pending.
- In this case, the dismissal / arranged exit of the source of the harassment (Roger Ailes), who also happened to be at the top of the organization, was a direct response to the complaints filed.
- While most cases will not warrant the level of publicity or remuneration present in Carlson vs. Fox, most will, at a minimum, be disruptive, time consuming, damaging to company morale and reputation, and typically require time to react, recover, and in many cases adjust culture and behaviors.
The best way to prevent such incidents from occurring in your firm – TRAINING. Managers need ANNUAL awareness training, especially given that the law views anyone in a managerial capacity in your firm as “workplace police”, on patrol for behaviors that cross the legal line, and with the responsibility to act immediately when (possible) harassment is present. Staff could also use training to help them understand the behaviors that could be interpreted as harassment so that they too avoid being both a source of (possible) harassment and possibly a victim.
Bottom Line – Make sure training and awareness initiatives are on your radar and part of your immediate plans. Contact OperationsInc if your firm needs a trusted resource to provide training and education.
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