Florida residents may be aware that 21st Century Fox has been mired in a number of scandals recently involving allegations of sexual harassment leveled against several of their most senior executives. Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was forced to resign in July 2016 after several women stepped forward to corroborate Gretchen Carlson’s allegations of sexual harassment, and Bill O’Reilly’s highly rated nightly show was forced off the air in April after a number of female workers made similar accusations.
Steps Fox has taken to address the problem include launching an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior made against the head of the company’s network sports division Jamie Horowitz. This led to Horowitz being fired during an 8:00 a.m. meeting on July 3. News of the firing was made public when an internal memo from FOX President and CEO Eric Shanks was leaked to the press. Horowitz’s attorney accused Fox of capriciousness in a press briefing, and he pointed out that his client was not chastised about his behavior or questioned about his professionalism at any point during his time with the network.
Analysts say that Fox acted quickly and decisively because they wanted to head off another messy scandal, and they point to the reported $13 million paid out to settle the cases involving O’Reilly’s accusers as the likely reason why. Horowitz was lured to Fox in May 2015 after working briefly for NBC, but he built his reputation during his eight years with ESPN.
While most employers in Florida will not have to worry about saturation media coverage if they are accused of committing or condoning sexual harassment, the settlement figures reported in the Fox cases could give them reason to pause. The courts take workplace discrimination and harassment complaints extremely seriously, and attorneys with experience in this area may urge employers to avoid more serious sanctions by settling these matters quickly.