Fox News Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Headed for Arbitration?

Amid allegations of sexual harassment, Fox News is reportedly ousting 76-year-old CEO Roger Ailes.womanportrait

An internal investigation was launched after former Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes. That expanded into a wide-ranging inquiry over Ailes’ often controversial management style. Other allegations of sexual harassment have been made as well.

Meanwhile, Ailes has moved to remove the lawsuit, Carlson v. Ailes, to arbitration. 

As our Orange County sexual harassment lawyers know, arbitration generally is not favorable to the employee in these situations, so Carlson’s attorneys may work hard to fight it. Although proponents of arbitration argue that it allows a faster, more efficient alternative to the judicial system, it’s important to note that arbitrators are not bound by legal precedent. Fewer cases result in damage awards to plaintiffs and even those that do end that way tend to be for less than one might have otherwise received in a court case. Many often argue the playing field in arbitration is generally uneven, favoring large employers and/or manufacturers. Further, none of the proceedings are public, which means there is little incentive for a defendant in the case to change his or her practices. There is also limited recourse if the private arbitrator’s decision is unfair or illogical.

In this case, legal analysts have weighed in and noted it may come down to the exact language in the arbitration clause signed by Carlson. If the court finds Carlson is attempting to evade her contract to arbitrate employment disputes, it will probably compel her to arbitrate. Often the only way out is to argue the contract somehow fundamentally unfair or that the plaintiff didn’t have the authority to sign it.

This case, however, could be interesting because Carlson has not named the network, but rather Ailes personally. Can Ailes invoke the terms of the employer contract? He is being sued in part for his actions in the role of employer. Specifically, Carlson alleges in her New Jersey Superior Court lawsuit that Ailes was a constant harasser who demoted and ultimately fired her after she refused his demands for sexual favors. She had worked at the network since 2005. As her attorney has stated, “Gretchen never agreed to arbitrate anything with Mr. Ailes.”

The network began its investigation citing “full confidence” in Mr. Ailes. It seems that confidence has waned. He has worked for the most-watched U.S. cable news show for two decades.

The 50-year-old Carlson has said Ailes called her a “man hater” and made numerous sexually inappropriate comments, including outright calling her “sexy.”

She asserts she was removed from her post as co-host of Fox & Friends three years ago because Ailes was angered by her refusal to cede to his sexual advances. He reportedly re-assigned her to a less desirable afternoon show. Further, she said the June 23 decision not to renew her contract was another act of retaliation.

Subsequent to Carlson’s allegations, a total of nine women came forward with many similar assertions. Those were published recently by The Daily Beast.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Can Fox News Host Elude Arbitration by Personally Suing CEO? July 14, 2016, By Jon Steingart, BNA.com

More Blog Entries:

Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Workers, July 18, 2016, Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog