The “he said, she said” type of facts in this Complaint are fairly routine in employment cases, especially those alleging sexual harassment. Very rarely does the offensive harassment take place in front of witnesses. The difference is that the cases don’t generally settle this fast or for such high numbers but the high profile nature of the litigants certainly had something to do with it. A “regular Jane/Joe” employment litigant endures day long depositions, discovery requests, and potentially, a stressful trial.
Lessons Learned From Carlson v. Ailes
On July 6, 2016, Gretchen Carlson filed suit against Roger Ailes for severe and pervasive sexual harassment suffered while working at Fox News. Roger Ailes resigned in July 2016, and Carlson’s case settled in September 2016 with Fox News’ parent company paying her $20,000,000.
The Complaint provides the sordid details of what Carlson says she suffered while working for Ailes. Since the case settled before any real litigation took place, we can only assume that Ailes and his attorney would have cleverly denied that any of these events took place and that there were “legitimate business reasons” for the changes in Carlson’s schedule, lack of prime job assignments and other retaliatory actions alleged by her.
Carlson got lucky because the price tag to Fox News in settling was lower than the cost of litigating plus the value of the judgment had Carlson won at trial.
So, what’s the take away?
1. Most employment cases are “he said, she said” and depend on circumstantial evidence. There is almost never a smoking gun. So, if something has happened, don’t let that scare you away from standing up for yourself. Employment cases in general are difficult and your’s isn’t unique in that respect. Speak with an attorney to find out what your options are.
2. Settlements before litigation are always about a cost benefit analysis. Whether to settle or not will always a business decision of balancing the risk against the payout. But don’t forget that most cases settle. Don’t let this scare you away either. If you feel strongly about being mistreated, speak to an attorney to make an informed decision.
2020 Solo Small Firm Conference-NJSBA