Why was Fox News fined? Human Rights Commission slaps channel with $1M fine

Civil penalty issued by New York City's HRC over toxic workplace culture, sexual harrasment and discrimination is the highest it has ever issued


                            Why was Fox News fined? Human Rights Commission slaps channel with $1M fine
Protesters rally against Fox News outside the Fox News headquarters at the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019, in New York City (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Fox News has agreed to pay a $1 million fine to the New York City Human Rights Commission (HRC), over reported human rights violations. On June 29, it was revealed that the broadcaster and HRC reached an agreement, making it the largest penalty in the commission's history. 

The network has been a hotbed of scandals for years, leading to widespread condemnation. In July 2020, anchor Ed Henry was fired after being implicated in a sexual harassment scandal. In July, it was revealed he brutally raped former associate producer Jennifer Eckhart, after she filed a lawsuit in federal court. That same time, host Tucker Carlson returned after a short break, which he took after also being accused of sexual misconduct. 

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They aren't the only ones. Late former network chief Roger Ailes and ex-anchor Bill O'Reilly have also been accused of harassment numerous times over the years. The scandals have finally culminated with the fine, and other restrictions slapped on Fox. 

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes walks with his wife Elizabeth Tilson as they leave the News Corp building, July 19, 2016 in New York City (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

 

Why was Fox fined?

The $1 million fine was slapped on the network for "a pattern of violating of the NYC Human Rights Law," according to The Daily Beast, which broke the story. Reportedly, the settlement was reached last week, along with immediate changes to its policies. It was agreed upon over the vast claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against victimized employees levied against Fox News. 

Over the years, numerous Fox employees have been accused of harassment, but few claims have seen the light of day. That's because of Fox's confidentiality clauses, that mandate in-house arbitration. Eckhart was one of the few Fox employees to take her case to court. The complaints against Ailes were particularly significant, inspiring a Golden Globe-award-winning film 'Bombshell'. The film was based on the more than 20 women who came out to accuse Ailes of harassment in 2016, leading him to be forced out. 

Since then, the company has claimed it has worked to clean up its culture, but as recent scandals involving Henry and Carlson show, that's not entirely accurate. In 2019, it was revealed that the company had already paid out over $100 million in damages for sexual harassment lawsuits. Eckhart also named Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Howard Kurtz in her suit, indicating just how far-reaching Fox's toxic culture is. 

The million-dollar fine stems from the four violations cited in the settlement agreement. Each violation carries a maximum penalty of $25,000, which the HRC imposed. "The Commission ascertained that a pattern and practice of violations took place at Fox," the HRC said. The Beast did not detail which violations were cited, given that numerous Fox employees have been accused in the past. 

Advertisements featuring Fox News personalities adorn the front of the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019, in New York City (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

 

HRC mandates changes at Fox

Along with the record-breaking fine, the HRC has asked Fox to make numerous changes to its employee policies. For one, it has asked the company to remove its mandatory confidential arbitration clauses with employees for four years. That way, employees can go to the HRC and file complaints of sexual harassment, but only four years after filing an in-house complaint. The commission also demanded "immediate changes to policies surrounding reporting sexual harassment, retaliation, training, and compliance with the NYC Human Rights Law."

Some of these changes were reported on by the Beast. For one, Fox will have to provide employees with a clear definition of "retaliation", and provide training on intervening and reporting on witnessed misconduct. In a statement, the network said, "We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this legacy matter. FOX News Media has already been in full compliance across the board, but cooperated with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to continue enacting extensive preventive measures against all forms of discrimination and harassment."

The HRC told Variety, "the Commission retains the right to add additional penalties to those outlined in this settlement should additional claims of harassment or retaliation be brought forth. The message we are sending is simple: there is no room for discrimination in New York City." 

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