Employers should take note of the position Fox News is in due to the proliferation of recent lawsuits against the network by numerous current and former employees. To be clear and fair, the lawsuits only involve allegations at this time – nothing has been proven at trial, or otherwise. Indeed, Fox News has denied the allegations. However, the common intertwined theme throughout all the lawsuits is that Fox News tolerates harassment, discrimination and retaliation. In short, the lawsuits attack Fox News’ workplace culture.
By having its workplace culture attacked, Fox News faces certain defense challenges. For instance, there is likely an increased risk of copycat or “me too” claims. In fact, Fox News has stated as much to the media. Additionally, the effectiveness of Fox News’ anti-harassment/discrimination policies and its remedial process addressing harassment or discrimination complaints is at issue. Therefore, the company may face challenges in asserting the defense that those employees or former employees alleging discrimination or harassment never complained about the alleged improper conduct, and therefore never gave the company an opportunity to take appropriate remedial action. Lastly, Fox News has suffered damage to its public reputation.
So what is the takeaway? Simply put, workplace culture matters. Employers should embrace the creation of a harassment/discrimination free workplace culture. Such a culture should reduce potential lawsuits because the company would be given the opportunity to redress issues early on. Additionally, such a culture will strengthen the company’s defenses against harassment and discrimination claims, lead to increased employee morale and protect against unfavorable publicity that can damage the employer’s reputation.
The following are tips for employers to help create a harassment/discrimination free workplace: