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Fox Debacle Opens Sexual Harassment Debate

Apr 25, 2017

Fox News Paid More to O'Reilly and Ailes Than to Their Victims

Fox News Debacle Opens Debate on Sexual Harassment

The issue of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace is making headlines following Bill O'Reilly's departure from Fox News and the forced resignation of Roger Ailes, former Fox chief executive, after both were accused of the sexual abuse of women at Fox.

The New York Times points out that, although the Fox scandals involving O'Reilly and Ailes have made headlines and opened conversations about workplace sexual abuse, because of the so-called "serial nature" of alleged abuse and Fox's response, change does not always follow exposure.

Fox recently announced that it was severing ties with Mr. O'Reilly after a "thorough and careful review of the allegations." The New York Times noted that Fox did not indicate that the review was not simply provoked by the allegations, which were already known by Fox, but by dozens of advertisers pulling out from "The O'Reilly Factor" as well as a drop in the company's stock price. Fox meanwhile, complimented O'Reilly in its announcement of his departure. Also, Fox has paid out no less than $85 million to resolve sexual abuse scandals that involved both Ailes and O'Reilly. Of this, at least $65 million went to both men as exit pay.

The New York Times wrote of this that, "That's not deterrence, let alone true accountability. It is, however, a good illustration of the entrenched reality of practices that have discounted, demeaned, and derailed women's work lives for decades. Those practices include not only sexual harassment, but also persistent disparities in pay and promotion, as well as structural impediments-in child care, scheduling, and other workplace policies."

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have long worked to obtain justice for victims of all forms of abuse and harassment, including in the workplace, in schools, or in nursing homes or care facilities.

Women Still Minimized in the Workplace

Women Still Minimized in the Workplace

Today, women are still making an average of 22 percent less per hour than their male counterparts, even after taking into consideration experience, education, and location, according to The New York Times. The pay gap remains even with controls for African American and Latino workers have long been employed at lower wages. What's more, women make less in jobs in which women are considered dominant such as nurse practitioners and preschool and kindergarten teachers. Even more concerning is that not only do women typically make less than men, but women make less than men who are similarly educated and the pay gap increases with increased education, The New York Times pointed out.

Even breaking glass ceilings does not guarantee equal pay. When looking at the top earners in corporate America-those who are at the 95th percentile at wage distribution-women still earn 74 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earn, noted The New York Times.

When the pay grades are lower, there are other issues. While there is some uniformity among the lowest of paid workers due to minimum wage mandates; however, tipped workers-and two-thirds of tipped workers are women-must be paid the federal sub-minimum tip wage of $2.13 per hour in most states. This rate has remain unchanged since 1991. The seriously low rate has often led to poverty with the "recent typical pay-plus-tips for these workers hovering around $9 an hour," according to The New York Times.

Low pay leaves these women financially vulnerable. Sexual harassment thrives in these situations in which women believe they have no alternative but to tolerate the abuse. Consider that the restaurant industry employs seven percent of women, yet comprises just about 40 percent of all harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These are figures that The New York Times write "almost certainly understate the problem."

The two recent debacles at Fox have strengthened the notion that women are typically not likely to discuss sexual harassment due to fear of retaliation. In some cases, there is also the misdirected belief that their jobs may be saved by either avoiding or minimizing the abuse. And, as The New York Times points out, "If highly paid women in glamorous media jobs feel that way, imagine what it's like for women living paycheck to paycheck."

Another issue that is seen at all levels is that women are 15 percent less likely to receive a promotion when compared to men, according to a recent study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org. The New York Times determined that it would take over 100 years "to achieve gender parity in the executive ranks." The research also discovered that companies have a habit of touting their focus on gender diversity without really doing anything to promote the diversity. Many companies reported that gender diversity was a key priority for their chief executives; however, not even half of the employees believed their companies were doing what it took to truly improve diversity. In fact, recent research summarized by Bloomberg View found that women are nowhere near on par in the boardroom of the larger American companies, only holding one out of every five board seats and serving on so-called "softer" committees that handle corporate responsibility and human resources. Meanwhile, the summary revealed that companies with higher percentages of female board members underwent fewer governance-related controversies and also outperformed those with lower percentages; other research found that decision-making is better when men and women are involved, according to The New York Times report.

Options for True Diversity

The New York Times notes that waiting for male corporate America to bridge the gender gulf is failing. Something seen in the Fox scandal was female employees making a "concerted effort" to take to social media to discuss workplace injustices. This is not illegal, neither is discussing pay; however, companies have retaliated against such behavior and may have created cultural environments in which these conversations are frowned upon. Meanwhile, social media has increased the power of speaking up, while also minimizing opportunities for companies to retaliate.

Advocating to update labor laws at the state level is another suggested route, especially given Congress's seeming inability to make clear decisions. Today, a number of states do not have separate sub-minimum tipped wage. Another option is unions. Pay gaps are typically smaller in unionized work environments; however, workers must be open to unions and corporations must allow union organization-without corporate intrusion—, wrote The New York Times. Lawsuits and legislative changes are always an option, as well The New York Times notes.

Legal Help for Victims of Sexual Abuse and Harassment

If you or someone you know has suffered sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace, in the experienced attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP can provide a free, no-obligation case evaluation of your legal options. Contact Parker Waichman by filling out the online form or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).


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