When an employee makes a complaint about sexual harassment, the company is supposed to take their claim seriously, and investigate the situation. The company should take all necessary measures to correct any problems, and make sure it never happens again. However, some companies may try and ignore complaints against top executives. When serious claims are ignored, the company may also find themselves liable for damages.
Roger Ailes was the founder and powerful executive behind Fox News. He recently resigned over allegations of sexual harassment made by former news anchor Gretchen Carlson. A number of other women have now come forward with similar claims of harassment; however, the company was on notice of possible sexual harassment for years. Unfortunately, many companies will turn a blind eye towards complaints about the top brass.
It took a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit for Fox News to confront claims that CEO Roger Ailes was harassing female employees. “Although this was a difficult step to take,” Carlson said in a statement, “I had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace.”
In the complaint, Carlson said Ailes made “sexually-charged comments ranging from lewd innuendo, ogling, and remarks about Ms. Carlson's body to demands for sex as a way for her to improve her job standing.” Ailes called Carlson's claims false, defamatory, and retaliatory. Fox launched an investigation into the claims, and Ailes subsequently resigned.
Since then, more than 20 other women have come forward with similar complaints. Television producer Shelley Ross has recounted improper sexual comments from Roger Ailes in the early 1980s. While with NBC, Ross claims Ailes told her that the best expression of loyalty comes in the form of a ‘sexual alliance'.
Another Fox host, Andrea Tantaros, said she had complained about Ailes' sexual advances as far back as 2014. After making multiple harassment and hostile workplace complaints, Tantaros says she was demoted and taken off the air.
Laurie Luhn, who worked as an event planner for Fox News, told New York magazine that Ailes had sexually exploited her for more than 20 years. Ailes paid her for sexual favors with mentoring, jobs, promotions, and even cash. Fox News offered Luhn a $3.15 million settlement in 2011, barring her from speaking publicly about the allegations. However, she said she spoke out after all the recent sexual harassment claims against the man she calls ‘a predator.'
According to an article in Vanity Fair, a number of women who worked with Ailes have audio recordings evidencing sexual harassment by the former Fox News CEO. However, the alleged victims may not be the only ones with audio recordings. Many employees reportedly felt their conversations were being recorded, and their phone lines tapped. Some sources say Ailes had an entire “black room” department committed to investigating Ailes' enemies, and advancing his own personal interests.
Sexual harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated, and should not be ignored. If you have been harassed at work, any suspected harassment should be taken seriously. If the company ignores your complaints or retaliates for reporting illegal activity, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois sexual harassment law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve and equal treatment under the law.