Earlier today, Gretchen Carlson, formerly of Fox News, sued her former boss Roger Ailes, the Chairman and CEO of Fox News, for sexual harassment in New Jersey state court.
Carlson alleged she suffered both types of legally cognizable sexual harassment by Ailes -- quid pro quo and hostile work environment. An example of quid pro quo -- Latin for "this for that" -- alleged here was that after Ailes made sexual advances at a meeting in September 2015, which Carlson rebuffed, he ultimately terminated her and failed to renew her employment contract come June 2016.
The other type of legally recognized sexual harassment is hostile work environment. That occurs when there is conduct of a sexual nature that is intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive and which unreasonably interferes with a person's work performance. Such conduct must rise to the level of severe and pervasive to be considered illegal. Carlson's complaint alleged that her former co-host Steve Doocy created a sexually hostile work environment by regularly mocking and belittling her in a sexist way. It further alleged hostile work environment sexual harassment against Ailes by asserting that he consistently interlaced conversations with sexual innuendo and comments.
The complaint has just been filed, and employment litigation takes a long time. Ailes will be required to file an answer to the complaint, and then the parties will engage in discovery for many months, if not longer. Discovery permits the parties to gather information from each other and other sources in order to prove their case or defend themselves.
At the end of the day, Carlson will have to show the severity and regularity of the conduct and comments by Ailes. Because she alleges specifically that she was terminated as a result of complaining about the sexual harassment, she will have to show the causal link between the two, including being more specific about the timing of the events.
No doubt, on his end Ailes will try to point fingers to other reasons for terminating her -- perhaps her work performance, or reputation, was suffering. They will try to show that she was terminated for reasons that had nothing to do with her concerns about sexual harassment but because somehow her performance and production as an employee were not up to par.
Time will tell how this case unfolds. If you have your own questions or concerns about sexual harassment, contact me.