Fox News has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for repeated violations of the New York City Human Rights Law following a three-year investigation into sexual harassment, discrimination and other misconduct that took place at the network.
The fine was part of a settlement that was signed last week with the N.Y.C. Commission on Human Rights, which began its investigation into Fox News in July 2016 and filed a complaint in December 2018. Fox News will forgo mandatory arbitration over city human rights claims with its employees for the next four years and submit to quarterly reviews by the commission for two years.
“With this settlement, the Commission not only ordered the largest civil penalty in the Commission’s history, but has mandated dramatic and critical policy changes at Fox News Network,” Carmelyn P. Malalis, chair and commissioner of the N.Y.C. Commission on Human Rights, said in a press release.
The agreement was first reported by The Daily Beast and acknowledged to NBC News by Fox News, which stressed that the misconduct took place during a previous era and before its current chief executive, Suzanne Scott, took the reins.
“We are pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this legacy matter," a Fox News representative said in a statement. "FOX News Media has already been in full compliance across the board, but cooperated with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to continue enacting extensive preventive measures against all forms of discrimination and harassment."
The commission's investigation began five years ago after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson brought sexual harassment charges against longtime Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Ailes was fired that year and given a $40 million severance package; he died in 2017. Bill Shine served as co-president of the network from 2016 to 2017 and was accused of seeking to suppress misconduct claims. He has previously denied those allegations.
Scott took over as CEO of Fox News in May 2018. While the company tried to use her promotion to signal a break with the past, many saw her as a holdover from the previous era and accused her of being involved with its efforts to silence accusers. Julie Roginsky, one of the women who sued Fox News for harassment, said in her lawsuit that Scott was a member of a team of executives who “retaliated” against the company’s accusers. Fox News denied the allegations.
Her appointment “shows that Fox News has no intention of changing its culture," Nancy Erika Smith, an attorney who represented both Carlson and Roginsky, said at the time.
Smith also represented Diana Falzone, a former Fox News reporter who is now a contributing reporter for The Daily Beast.
The network said in a statement: “FOX News Media has worked tirelessly to completely change the company culture over the last five years. Under the leadership of CEO Suzanne Scott, the network has implemented annual, mandatory in person harassment prevention training, created an entirely new reporting structure, more than tripled the size of our HR footprint, started quarterly company meetings and mentoring events, as well as implemented a zero tolerance policy regarding workplace misconduct for which we engage outside independent firms to handle investigations.”
CORRECTION (June 30, 2021, 10:21 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the agreement Fox News reached concerning arbitration clauses. The company will forgo mandatory arbitration over city human rights claims with its employees for the next four years, not forgo all arbitration clauses.