Imagine a work setting where you have sexual relations with one of your bosses in order to gain a promotion or receive better, more equal pay doing an already-exceptional job, and where your contributions to a company aren’t valid unless you have these sexual relations. To which, you would probably say, “That’s completely unfair and unjust.”
Gretchen Carlson, a former news anchor at Fox News, received a $20 million settlement in a suit against Roger Ailes, former chairman of Fox News, for allegations of sexual harassment, according to the Washington Post. Carlson also received a rare, public apology from 21st Century Fox, parent company of Fox News “[They] sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
Carlson compiled a significant amount of evidence against Ailes, with recordings of remarks such as, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.” She claims that he frequently ogled at her, telling her to turn around so that he could see her rear.
It was most likely because of this damning mountain of evidence that Carlson received such a swift and huge settlement from 21st Century Fox.
The biggest win was not the large, unprecedented settlement amount, but the fact that Carlson emerged with an untarnished reputation. Many sexual harassment victims are often painted as sluts and liars, labeled as the victim who “cried rape.”
The settlement with Carlson, as well as the much smaller payments of 20 other women who stepped forward during an internal investigation of Ailes, represents the acknowledgement of the severity of sexual harassment within Fox News.
While the lawsuit was against Ailes, 21st Century Fox was the one that footed the bill. Since the settlement, Ailes has been removed from his position. However, Aile’s most loyal deputies remained, of whom were alleged to have abetted his harassment of the women working for the company.
Upon his departure from Fox News, a report from USA Today said that Ailes left with a severance package of $40 million and a continuing consulting role. With essentially no repercussions of his actions towards the women of Fox News, Ailes basically received little to no punishment.
Like many things in life, this sort of justice seems bittersweet. While Carlson’s settlement displays corporate America bettering its work environment for women, it also shows that too often, no real punishment comes to those who wish to exploit others.