Fox News has been sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for asking a female employee to sign an employment contract which allegedly was intended to discourage her from making complaints of discrimination in the future.
The complaint alleges that Fox retaliated against news reporter Catherine Herridge after she complained that she was subjected to disparate pay and unequal employment opportunities because of her gender and age. The EEOC claims that during 2007, Herridge made several complaints to management officials at Fox News about employment practices that she believed were discriminatory. Fox conducted an investigation into Herridge’s allegations but found no evidence of age and sex discrimination. Subsequently, when Herridge’s employment contract was up for renewal, Fox inserted language which was allegedly intended to prevent the reporter from making further discrimination complaints. Herridge refused to sign, and she had to work without a contract for nine months, causing her considerable stress, according to the complaint.
Said the EEOC:
“The anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII and other federal anti-discrimination laws are indispensable to the attainment of a workplace free of discrimination. . . .Employers must take care that any action taken in response to a discrimination complaint is constructive and not retaliatory.”
In my opinion, if the allegations are true, Fox News is in for a beating. A company can’t force an employee to sign away their right to make legitimate complaints of discrimination in advance. Anti-discrimination laws were enacted to eradicate discrimination; such a contract would seriously undermine the effectiveness of these laws.