Gretchen Carlson can no longer talk about all the horrible things Roger Ailes said to her. By now most people know exactly why the parent company of Fox News paid for her silence and that she didn’t have much choice in the matter. But Carlson knows silence is sexual harassment’s greatest ally, so the words she’s using are now aimed squarely at companies that force employees to surrender their right to speak out. In an event hosted by Westphal College of Media Arts & Design on Nov. 14, Carlson will join veteran journalist Karen Curry in a discussion about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the entertainment and media industries and how we can work together to end harassment in the workplace.
Carlson opened a national dialogue about sexual harassment in July 2016 when she sued Ailes, her boss, who was chairman and chief executive of Fox News, after she turned down his sexual advances and he fired her. The lawsuit inspired many other women who had been harassed by Ailes to come forward and share their stories. And it eventually led to a reported $20-million settlement for Carlson and an apology from 21st Century Fox — whose former star host Bill O’Reilly recently paid $32 million of his own money to settle a sexual harassment claim.
Since then, Carlson has been working on a book, “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back,” which was just released this month. She has also been lobbying congress to pass legislation that would eliminate arbitration agreements, like the one she had to sign to work at Fox, which force victims of sexual harassment to accept settlements rather than taking their cases to court.
Echoes of the national conversation about the contribution of patriarchy in the media industry to sexual harassment could be heard this month when women in the entertainment industry took a stand against the behavior of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Their voices were joined by millions around the world who shared their stories on social media.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Carlson recently reflected on the power of #metoo, the importance of talking about the problem and the legal tricks companies use to silence employees who have experienced sexual harassment.
“Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civils Rights Act of 1964. But that doesn’t mean the law is on every woman’s side. If her employment contract includes an arbitration clause, she’s likely to have signed away her right to a jury trial. It’s no surprise that many contracts include these clauses: They benefit employers. A 2011 Cornell University study found that employees are less likely to win arbitration cases than cases that go to trial. And when employees do prevail, they’re often prohibited from discussing the case. This veil of secrecy protects serial harassers by keeping other potential victims in the dark, and minimizing pressure on companies to fire predators.”
At the discussion, which will be held in the Bossone Research Center’s Mitchel Auditorium, Carlson will talk about the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2017, legislation she’s lobbying congress to pass that would keep mandatory arbitration clauses out of contracts, as well as what students can do to be part of the shift away from a culture that has allowed this harassment to go unchecked for decades.
“I’m hopeful that the Weinstein story will represent the start of a sea change in our society’s treatment of sexually harassed workers. By ending arbitration clauses, blacklisting and workplace cultures where abuse thrives, we can ensure that victims of harassment speak out. I encourage victims to stand up and tell their stories, which I know requires immense bravery. And I’m hopeful we’ll see changes in our laws and our culture that will allow them to do so without being victimized yet again,” she wrote in the op-ed.
Attendees will receive a free copy of “Be Fierce” and Carlson will sign books after the event. The event was made possible by support from the Steinbright Career Development Center.
For more information about the event visit: http://drexel.edu/westphal/news-events/events/details/?eid=16618&iid=48705