Katz Banks Kumin partner Debra Katz was quoted in a number of news outlets recently, discussing Bill O’Reilly’s staggering $32 million sexual harassment settlement, and the larger legal and societal context surrounding workplace sexual harassment.
In an April article for the New York Times, Bill O’Reilly, a former highly rated and high earning Fox News commentator, was exposed in a series of sexual harassment claims. Fox’s previously unconditional support ended a few weeks later and O’Reilly was forced out of the company.
A week ago, The New York Times published another story, reporting that in January of 2017, O’Reilly settled sexual harassment allegations from a longtime network analyst for a stunning $32 million. A month after the settlement, Fox extended O’Reilly’s contract for four years at $25 million per year.
In an article for the Huffington Post, Ms. Katz called the settlement amount “unprecedented” and a “shocking figure.” It indicates that O’Reilly “felt extremely exposed … You don’t pay a $32 million settlement if you’ve engaged in no wrongdoing.”
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Katz explained that while large settlements can seem like victories for curbing sexual harassment, they often are just a cost that businesses incur to have the victim retract accusations and say “she recanted.” Ms. Katz explains, “It’s done as a way to put a hammer over the individual who signs so they will never come forward and disclose the allegations.”
Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality clauses are standard practices in many industries. But their silencing effect on victims and witnesses of sexual harassment have led many to reconsider how to better construct contracts so that people can speak out against sexual harassment.
Ms. Katz was also quoted in a separate Washington Post article, where she broke down what O'Reilly's accuser's affadavit really means.