Roger Ailes, former chairman and CEO of Fox News Corporation, has been in the news lately over an allegation of sexual harassment against him by his former employee and news celebrity, Gretchen Carlson. Roger Ailes has stepped down from his job at Fox, but he still needs to defend against Carlson's sexual harassment lawsuit in a New Jersey court. And, as The Los Angeles Times reports, this could be the beginning of more lawsuits against Fox alleging sexual harassment during Ailes' tenure.
To better understand this notable lawsuit, we'll take a look at the sexual harassment complaint and break down what it means.
Why sue Ailes in New Jersey?
Gretchen Carlson's lawyers filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court of Bergen County, New Jersey. This may come as a surprise, because when we think of sexual harassment lawsuits, we often think of federal laws, like Title XII of the Civil Rights Act. Lawsuits like this usually go to federal court. Carlson, however, is not suing under a federal law, or even a state law. She's actually suing under a New York City law called the New York City Human Rights Law, which appears under Section 8-107 of the New York City Administrative Code. Since the Fox News headquarters is located in New York, Carlson's lawyers will argue that the law applies. Carlson herself is a resident of Connecticut. The complaint states that Roger Ailes resides in the Garden State, in Cresskill. If this is true, it gives the New Jersey Superior Court jurisdiction to hear the case.
So why file the lawsuit in New Jersey state court, when several other courts might have jurisdiction? Ailes' lawyers believe it's an attempt to avoid an arbitration clause in Carlson's employment contract with Fox News. That clause would require Carlson to submit to secret arbitration in New York City, and prevent her from suing for sexual harassment in state or federal court.
According to the Complaint, Ailes Made Sexual Advances to Carlson
The first allegation is that Roger Ailes made sexual advances to Carlson while she was his employee. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Ailes "ogled" Carlson, asked her to turn around so he could see her figure, recommended she wear certain outfits that he found attractive, complimented Carlson's legs, and called her "sexy." The next allegation is that Roger Ailes harassed Carlson sexually. The complaint states that Ailes called Carlson a "man hater," accused her of trying to "show up the boys," and stated in front of others that he had slept with three other Miss Americas but not Carlson. He also "made it clear" that he could help her career if she cooperated with his advances.
Ailes Retaliated Against Carlson When She Complained About Harassment
The complaint alleges that Ailes retaliated against Carlson when she complained about the hostile environment on her show "Fox and Friends," including the fact that her co-star would touch her on the arms and legs. Ailes' retaliation consisted of denying her important interview assignments, removing her from a popular segment of "The O'Reilly Factor," and removing her from prime time slots. Altogether, these allegations form the basis of a claim for two different kinds of sexual harassment: a hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment, in which the employee is offered work advancement in return for sexual favors. They also allege retaliation, another violation of New York's sexual harassment law.
Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Roger Ailes: For Further Reading
- Fox's Ailes asks NY court to compel ex-anchor Carlson to arbitrate via Reuters.com
- Fox News may have just opened itself up to more lawsuits with Roger Ailes' resignation via Los Angeles Times
- Fox News Sources: Gretchen Carlson Wasn't The First Roger Ailes Victim via Huffington Post
- Gretchen Carlson of Fox News Files Harassment Suit Against Roger Ailes via New York Times
- Gretchen Carlson Reportedly Files "Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Lawsuit" Against Roger Ailes via MediaMatters.org
No one should have to worry about sexual harassment or hostile working conditions. If you feel your boss, supervisor or coworker is subjecting you to sexual harassment in California, contact our passionate employment lawyers a Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.