Fox news journalist Gretchen Carlson has filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of the company after alleging that she was fired for refusing to participate in a sexual relationship with him.
Carlson joined Fox News in 2005, where she worked as a television journalist for 11 years. During this time, Carlson interviewed numerous high-ranking political figures and celebrities, and was part of the channel’s popular “Fox & Friends” morning show.
Carlson alleges that she was subjected to pervasive sexual harassment at the news channel. In 2009, Carlson alleged that one of her co-hosts on Fox & Friends had created a hostile work environment by continually sexually harassing her, mocking her, and belittling her. After she filed her complaint, Ailes responded by calling her a “man hater” and telling her she needed to learn to get along with the boys.
Carlson also claims that Ailes engaged in his own pattern of harassment. Her complaint includes allegations claiming that the CEO had ogled her in her office, commented repeatedly on Carlson’s legs and overall sexual attractiveness, and had made comments to others wondering about Carlson’s sex life and his desire to have sex with her.
After years of alleged harassment, Carlson claims that she confronted Carlson about her treatment in September of 2015. At that time, Carlson allegedly stated, “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.” When Carlson refused his advances, she claims that Ailes nurtured a personal vendetta against her and retaliated against her in several ways.
Carlson claims that Ailes engaged in retaliation by denying her fair compensation, desirable assignments, and other opportunities due to her previous complaint. Over the next several years, Carlson claims that Ailes fired her from Fox & Friends, removed her from other popular shows, and limited her appearances on television to unpopular times for programming, like shows that ran at 6 a.m. Ailes also decreased her compensation despite the fact that Carlson had improved the ratings of every show on which she appeared.
Eventually, Ailes made the decision not renew Carlson’s contract with the network. Shortly thereafter, Carlson filed a discrimination lawsuit. Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes personally, and has not sued the network. Currently, attorneys for Ailes are arguing that her claims must be heard in arbitration. Carlson’s attorneys argue that she is free to file a lawsuit against Ailes because the arbitration clause contained in her employment agreement was with the network and did not include Ailes personally.
The judge in the case has not yet decided if the case will go to trial or will be forced into arbitration. Whatever the result, Carlson’s lawsuit succeeded in creating a national conversation about the still-ongoing problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.
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