As part of its efforts to resolve sexual harassment claims at Fox News–and as a component of one $90 million insurance payout–21st Century Fox has formed the Fox News Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council.
Six workplace and inclusion experts will serve on the council, with four of them coming from outside the company. The new body will, in the words of the company’s official announcement, “advise Fox News and its senior management in its ongoing efforts to ensure a proper workplace environment for all employees and guests,” It will also “strengthen reporting practices for wrongdoing, enhance HR training on workplace behavior, and further recruitment and advancement of women and minorities.”
The council, which will report to the parent company’s board, offers “a brain trust of experts with deep and diverse experiences in workplace issues,” said Jack Abernethy, co-president of Fox News Channel.
While the network has been at the center of a flurry of claims of late, cases involving talent like Gretchen Carlson, ex-host Bill O’Reilly and founding chief Roger Ailes, one particular complaint officially led to the council’s creation. The City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System filed a complaint today in Delaware state court after a year of discussions with 21st Century Fox. The recent spate of claims was a topic at the company’s recent shareholder meeting, especially it pertains to Fox’s long-gestating bid to gain full control of pay-TV giant Sky.
Along with the settlement with Monroe, which resulted in a $90 million insurance payment to the parent company, 21st Century Fox and Fox News agreed to make an “affirmative commitment” to zero tolerance for sexual harassment, race discrimination, and all other forms of discrimination. They also pledged to maintain a corporate policy creating a safe, productive and welcoming workplace for all employees.
“We are pleased to have resolved this matter with 21CF in a constructive way that will drive meaningful benefits for shareholders of 21CF and Fox News employees,” said Max Berger, founding partner and Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman. “The establishment of a majority independent council with the participation of senior HR executives from the company is a positive result that reflects a shared commitment from both sides to strengthen the workplace at Fox News.”
In the wake of a string of claims, Fox also noted it has bolstered its HR ranks, appointing Thomas Gaissmaier as global chief human resources officer and Kevin Lord as the new HR head of Fox News. Both will be members of the council, which Gaissmaier will chair.
The four independent members of the council include former federal judge Barbara Jones, board consultant Brande Stellings, consultant and former Gannett exec Virgil Smith, and Sylvia Ann Hewwlett, an economist and founder-CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation.