Last month, Fox News settled Gretchen’s Carlson’s sexual harassment claim against former chairman, Roger Ailes, by agreeing to pay Carlson $20 Million and make a public apology. Carlson didn’t sue Fox. Instead, she sued Ailes personally. And, even though Ailes consistently denied Carlson’s allegations that she was fired from Fox because she complained about Ailes’ sexual harassment, 21st Century Fox agreed to pay the settlement and apologize. "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," it announced in connection with a statement lauding Carlson’s work at Fox.
It is extremely rare for an employer to publicly apologize in connection with an employee’s or former employee’s legal claims. Settlements between employers and employees typically come with strict confidentiality requirements and a “no admission” provision.
A “no admission” provision means that the employer is not admitting any guilt. The argument in favor of them is that an admission could give an inference in favor of future claims. Settlements are intended to resolve disputes and minimize future risk. In our society, apologies are considered admissions of guilt and admissions do not help minimize future risk. Even though the lawsuit was only against Ailes, Fox News could still be exposed to liability in connection with other claims against Ailes.
Carlson had the power of the media on her side and substantial evidence to support her allegations. Most claims that we see are based on more subversive conduct and few plaintiffs have the type of media leverage that Carlson had. Whether the settlement or the apology will lead to further claims against Fox News remains to be seen.
Carlson got an even bigger win here, though. Her claims against Ailes prompted Fox to investigate and inspired other female employees to come forward. Under the pressure of the lawsuit and multiple other allegations, Ailes resigned from his role as chairman.
Although Carlson’s settlement has highlighted the fact that gender discrimination and sexual harassment are still a fact of life for many professional women, the sad fact is that very few women will have the same opportunity for retribution. And, even fewer women will ever get the apology.
Have you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace? Call our dedicated and proven Chicago employment law attorneys at The Prinz Law Firm today. Use our online form to request a free consultation.