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Fox News settles 18 race, sex discrimination suits for $10 million

Fox News has been making some changes since the sexual harassment scandals that roiled the company last year. Chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O'Reilly were forced out after lawsuits and reports revealed that they had sexually harassed women and then silenced their accusers with confidential settlement agreements. The network was ultimately revealed to harbor a culture where Ailes was free to harass young women and sexual harassment was tolerated overall. Both men were ousted.

After a plaintiff's attorney testified before British regulators, 21st Century Fox was thwarted from taking over Sky, a major broadband and satellite TV company in Britain. After that, a number of executives considered complicit in the toxic work environment were let go, as were other prominent Fox News figures who were accused of misconduct.

Now, Fox News' parent company News Corporation has settled 18 discrimination lawsuits brought by former employees, according to NPR sources. The company paid approximately $10 million to settle the cases, which alleged racial discrimination and gender bias and retaliation.

Although details of the settlement were not released, NPR was able to obtain information about some of the claims. They paint a picture of a culture where individuals were subjected to an anti-female and racially hostile work environment with little recourse.

For example, several staffers in the payroll department filed lawsuits complaining that their boss had made demeaning, belittling racist remarks, creating a racially hostile work environment.

The network's chief attorney was named in some cases, accused of doing nothing to address racist comments by the now-fired comptroller. The attorney has also been criticized for arranging confidential settlements when staffers complained of sexual harassment.

Kelly Wright, a former host who is African-American, complained not only that he was passed over for opportunities and promotions due to his race but also that he was asked to play racially stereotypical roles at the network.

When sexual harassment and a hostile work environment become the norm at a company, it can be hard to root out all of those responsible. Fox News is making significant changes, but it will be some time before we know whether their efforts are successful.

If you work in a company with a sexually or racially hostile work environment, you may need to step forward if things are to change. That said, you could face retaliation, or your complaint could be ignored entirely. Build a compelling case and limit the chance of retaliation by working with an employment law attorney as early as possible.

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