The New York State Division of Human Rights (SDHR) is investigating Fox News for claims of sexual harassment and retaliation, according to attorney Lisa Bloom.
Bloom told ThinkProgress over the phone that a human rights specialist at the agency confirmed the investigation to her on Friday.
According to Bloom, the agency has spoken to one of her clients, Dr. Wendy Walsh, twice, and another of her clients, Caroline Heldman, once in the course of the investigation. The agency also wants to interview a third woman.
Bloomâ€™s law firm filed a request for investigation with the SDHR on April 11th. Bloom told ThinkProgress she asked for the investigation because Fox has â€śthe worst corporate culture Iâ€™ve heard of in 30 years as a civil rights attorney.â€ť
â€śOver the past thirteen years, dozens of women have reported egregious sexual harassment and retaliation at Fox News, with new claims constantly coming to light,â€ťÂ the complaint says. â€śThe company frequently pays women to remain silent and leave the company while the perpetrators and enablers keep their jobs. Others are scared into silence by the companyâ€™s well-documented intimidation tactics, including using its giant media platform to smear their reputations. Nearly all of the victims were not only driven out of Fox News, but the television industry entirely.â€ť
The complaint says that since many of the victims signed confidentiality agreements or are barred by time-limits from bringing their complaints to the legal system, they cannot raise the issue with the SDHR themselves.
The SDHR did not immediately respond to ThinkProgressâ€™ request for confirmation.
Bloom told ThinkProgress that a typical remedy for this sort of case would see the state entering into a consent decree with the employer. The employer would likely have to improve their grievance procedures and demonstrate compliance on a regular basis, anywhere from monthly to yearly.
According to Bloom, the process is â€śpretty intrusiveâ€ť for the employer, and typically unwelcome.
This report signals a new wave in the networkâ€™s ongoing legal troubles, linked to what reports and allegations indicate is a pervasive culture of sexual discrimination.
Last year, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed suit against the networkâ€™s then-CEO Roger Ailes, alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The network eventually settled with Carlson for $20 million, but her suit opened the floodgates of women coming forward with their own allegations. The scandal led to Ailesâ€™ resignation.
Then this year, the New York Times reported that the network had paid over $13 million over the years to quiet allegations of harassment by Fox News Host Bill Oâ€™Reilly. The report led to a spate of women going public with their stories, and ultimately to Oâ€™Reillyâ€™s ousting from the network after advertisers abandoned his nightly talk show.
Taken in sum, however, the womenâ€™s stories indicate that the problem went beyond the alleged predilections of two of the networkâ€™s most powerful men. The allegations and reports paint a picture of systemic sexual harassment and a culture of gender discrimination within the network.
â€śItâ€™s not about Roger Ailes. Itâ€™s about a culture,â€ť Gabriel Sherman, who wrote the book on Roger Ailes and his role in the network,Â told NPR in July 2016. â€śAnd it was a culture where this type of behavior was encouraged and protected. The allegations are that women routinely had to sleep with or be propositioned by their manager in many cases, Roger Ailes, but Iâ€™ve reported on another manager who did this in exchange for promotions.â€ť
Fox News has also retained the law firm Paul Weiss to conduct internal investigations of the harassment claims against Roger Ailes and Bill Oâ€™Reilly.
This piece has been updated with comments from Lisa Bloom. Judd Legum contributed reporting.
This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on June 19, 2017. Reprinted with permission.Â
About the Author: Laurel RaymondÂ is a general reporter for ThinkProgress. Previously, she was the ThinkProgress Editorial Assistant. Prior to joining ThinkProgress she worked for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and was a Fulbright scholar, based in southeast Turkey. She holds a B.S. in brain and cognitive sciences and a B.A. in English from the University of Rochester, where she worked and researched in the university writing center and was a member of the Michael K. Tanenhaus psycholinguistics lab. Laurel is originally from Richmond, Vermont.