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Fox News settles sex, race discrimination claims for $10 million

Sexual harassment scandals brought down Fox News's chairman, the late Roger Ailes, along with Bill O'Reilly, one of its leading commentators. The company had made massive, confidential payouts to women who had accused the two men of sexual harassment. Then, lawsuits and reports revealed a culture that tolerated sexual harassment and even seemed set up to facilitate it. Those discoveries led to overall scrutiny of the culture at Fox News.

Since then, there has been a shakeup at the network. First, several executives thought to be complicit in the toxic culture were ousted. After allegations were raised regarding the behavior of a certain host, the chief Washington correspondent and another executive, all three men left the company.

Now, the network's parent company has paid some $10 million to settle 18 lawsuits brought by former Fox News employees. These lawsuits alleged race discrimination, gender discrimination and retaliation. Few details were disclosed except that the parties settled after attempting mediation and negotiations.

NPR detailed some of the allegations. Several people from the payroll department sued after allegedly experiencing racial harassment and hostility from their boss. Some suits named the network's comptroller, who allegedly made racist comments despite being warned to stop.

Some plaintiffs pointed to the network's chief attorney, accusing her of failing to take protective action when problems were brought to her attention. She has been criticized by female former employees who complained of sexual harassment, and federal prosecutors have scrutinized her role in making the confidential settlements on behalf of Ailes and O'Reilly.

Former host Kelly Wright, an African-American, filed one of the suits. He alleged that race discrimination prevented him from promotions and other opportunities. He also said that he had been asked to play stereotypical roles.

In another case, an international reporter says he was fired almost immediately after his sister, who claimed that O'Reilly had sexually harassed her, spoke up about her experience. He was allegedly fired on a pretext.

The settlement of these 18 cases may indicate that Fox News is winding down what litigation it can before much of its parent company, Fox Entertainment Group, is sold to the Walt Disney Co. Fox News is not being sold.

The scandals at Fox News had already gotten in the way of Fox's attempt to take over Sky, a British broadband and satellite TV company. One plaintiffs' attorney testified against the bid before British regulators.

Far too often, a single experience of sexual harassment indicates a culture that tolerates it and rejects complaints about it. Before you make a complaint, we recommend contacting an employment law attorney. A lawyer can help you get your complaint listened to and limit your exposure to retaliation.

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