Posted on July 29, 2016 in Uncategorized
I opened my Sunday New York Times to read a very interesting article about the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. We’ve all seen the allegations against Roger Ailes and read of his resignation from the news empire he built. The Times article focuses less on Ailes and more on other allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News. The article and the allegations offer some valuable lessons to employers.
First lesson: Stop thinking that he’s “just not that type of person.” You have no idea how many times I hear that line in my work. The Times article reminds me that harassment and gender discrimination is perpetrated across economic and social classes by people who by all other accounts would be impervious to allegations of harassment. However, employers sometimes rationalize bad workplace behavior as the actions of the “lower class” and “uneducated.” Relying on this theory, I once read a case from a U.S. Circuit Court that actually concluded that construction workers should be judged on a different standard because they are prone to be crass. (It’s not good law anymore.) With 20+ years of experience, I can assure clients that sexual harassment occurs in all sorts of workplaces committed by persons of all level of social status irrespective of the harasser’s education or financial means. Mr. Ailes clearly proves this point.
Second lesson: Employers should be cognizant of the public relations nightmare that can surround allegations of sexual harassment. The Fox case is an extreme example because the victims are news women with a massive following who have an opportunity to share in a very personal way the harm that sexual harassment creates. The other networks have and will continue to seize upon Fox News current disgrace as any business competitor would. For a humorous example you might enjoy Colbert and Stewart’s take on the Fox News story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNiqpBNE9ik.
Third lesson: The New York Times piece was filled with other examples of sexual harassment having nothing to do with Mr. Ailes and might never have been made public but for the scandal at the top. Because of the courage of a few brave women to take their complaint public, all the other bad actors might never have answered publicly for their behavior.
If you would like to read the Times article, here is a link to it: http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/kisses-propositions-and-fears-of-reprisal-for-female-employees-at-fox-20160724-gqctg7.html