Rhode Island residents who follow developments in the news and entertainment business may be aware that several Fox News executives, on-air personalities and producers have been accused of sexual harassment in recent years. The news network’s long-time CEO Roger Ailes resigned in 2016 after being accused of sexually inappropriate behavior, and popular host Bill O’Reilly agreed to pay $32 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2017. Fox News was plunged into another sexual harassment scandal on Dec. 4 when a former employee filed a lawsuit in New York that accuses one of the network’s most senior producers of sexual assault.
Adult Survivors Act
The incidents described in the harassment lawsuit allegedly took place in 2008. Lawmakers in New York extended the statute of limitations for sexual harassment lawsuits from three to 20 years in 2019, but the extension did not apply retroactively. In May 2022, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law. This law gave sexual harassment victims one year to file lawsuits that would previously been barred by the statute of limitations. The lawsuit that accuses Fox News and one of its producers of sexual harassment was filed just days before that one-year window closed.
Lured to apartment
The man who filed the lawsuit says that a senior Fox News producer started showering him with gifts shortly after he joined the network in 2008. He also claims that he was sexually assaulted after being lured to the senior producer’s apartment. The senior producer is accused in the lawsuit of pushing the man onto a bed and groping him. The man says that he did not report the incident to network executives because his supervisor told him that it would do no good.
The preponderance of the evidence
Establishing proof of sexual harassment beyond reasonable doubt could be challenging when the events in question took place more than a decade ago, but civil lawsuits are decided based on the preponderance of the evidence. If this case goes to trial, the producer will only have to convince the jury that his allegations are more likely true than false. This is a much easier burden to meet, and it is also one of the reasons why most sexual harassment cases are settled at the negotiating table.