I’m not surprised by anything, anymore, but I am shocked by the number of women who have been allegedly harassed by Roger Ailes and other members of the Fox News executive team.
Dozens have come forward.
In HR, we have a rule of thumb when it comes to sexual harassment complaints: for every one victim, there are two who haven’t come forward. So we multiply the victim number by three to comprehend how many people were harassed.
And speaking of HR, where the hell were they during the past decade at Fox News?
I know, I know. Most human resources departments operate at the behest of the CEO and executive leadership team. However, at some point, it becomes unethical to sit back and watch company leaders behave in such unscrupulous ways.
There’s a point where HR becomes complicit. That seems to have happened at Fox News. And when HR becomes complicit, it hurts all of us. As I wrote in my book about human resources, you don’t need to be a liberal activist to intervene and protect your workers. Doing the right thing for employees will always benefit the bottom line and enhance the reputation of HR.
So here’s another example where a select group of elitist men operates without regard for company policy or decent human behavior. And it seems like HR did nothing about it.
What’s worse is that some of my friends are defending Roger Ailes. I kid you not. Here is what I’ve heard:
1. “This is political.” While everything always seems political, it’s not always true. Roger Ailes is a grown-ass man. When you violate your company’s harassment policy, you’re living on borrowed time. If anything is political about the story, it’s the fact that it was buried within the RNC convention news cycle. Most people are too stupid to pay attention to more than one news item at a time.
2. “There are two sides to every story.” Are there two sides? To sexual harassment? What if your mom was propositioned by Roger Ailes? Or your wife? Are you the kind of generous person who would patiently listen to Roger Ailes’ menservants explain on national TV that maybe your mom has it wrong? Good for you. You’re a saint.
3. “Bill Clinton sexually harassed his intern.” Yeah, okay, here we go. This is never going away.
4. “It’s not like these women didn’t benefit from working at Fox News.” Is sexual harassment okay as long as women get paid? And exactly how much of a pay differential was earned for getting harassed by Roger Ailes? By the way, is it enough to overcome the wage gap in TV news?
5. “These women could have quit.” Sure, that’s true. Some did quit. I recommended this tactic and was criticized by Jezebel. But leaving doesn’t change the culture or leadership of a company when a confidentiality clause governs employee contracts and separation agreements.
I’ve heard more. So much more. (“He’s not Bill Cosby, Laurie.”) I could write this post for days.
The whole experience reminds me of when I was in Cuba, last year. Our American HR delegation met with a senior leader at The National Union of Jurists of Cuba. We came together to discuss labor laws in a changing economic and political environment.
One of my colleagues asked about sexual harassment in Havana and beyond. An elder statesman, one of the most senior officials of Unión Nacional de Juristas de Cuba, told us that sexual harassment is not a problem in Cuba.
My colleague said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you.”
The esteemed leader doubled down and stated that he can only remember one case in his lifetime: An old, fat woman sexually harassed two young men. She was punished. Otherwise, sexual harassment just doesn’t exist in Cuba.
And — just like in the super transparent and free society of Cuba — some people believe that sexual harassment doesn’t exist at Fox News. Guess what, everybody? HR didn’t let anybody down.