Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Kate Webber Nuñez, Toxic Cultures Toxic Cultures Require a Stronger Cure: The Lessons of Fox News for Reforming Sexual Harassment Law, 122 Penn State L. Rev. (forthcoming):
A series of sexual harassment scandals have disrupted Fox News, causing the departure of some of its top executives and anchors. The upheaval at Fox News, however, came from public disclosure and social pressure; the actual law prohibiting harassment failed to deter or stop the rampant abuse at the network. Legal scholars have previously identified the problems with federal harassment law that could explain why widespread sexual harassment occurred at the highest levels of Fox News. Specifically, the existing literature details how women are forced to report harassment nearly immediately, despite the many career reasons not to, and yet are not fully protected against retaliation when they do. Scholars have also documented that if a victim’s claims do make it to court, the standard for proving harassment is a nearly insurmountable burden to overcome. These identified weaknesses in the law would seem to explain why it failed to act as a stronger deterrent to Fox News. Fox News, however, is headquartered in New York City, a jurisdiction with its own local anti-harassment law that is much more strongly worded. In fact, the New York City Human Rights Law removes each of the identified problems in federal harassment law. The example of Fox News therefore demonstrates that with entrenched harassing cultures, stronger anti-discrimination statutes that “fix” the identified weaknesses of current law are not a complete solution. Thus, this article advocates for two alternative means of strengthening harassment law: expanded use of systemic harassment claims and limits on the use of confidential settlements and mandatory arbitration agreements. This analysis is of particular relevance in light of recent sexual harassment scandals affecting companies such as Uber and The Weinstein Company.