Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, November 14, 2005

EEOC v. Fox News and the Art of Punitive Pleading


Couldn't have been a happy day at Fox News when the EEOC's complaint based on the conduct of one of its vice presidents, Joe Chillemi, was served. See a copy of the complaint, which is replete with "quotes" attributed to Chillemi that are both course and sexist, here. The blogosphere is full of condemnatory articles about Fox and its view/treatment of women.

Without in any way defending the conduct as appropriate, I can't help but wonder if the justice system really benefits from such specific pleadings. I know the argument that the pain caused Chillemi and Fox News by reciting in vivid detail his allegedly inappropriate conduct in a public pleading serves as a powerful message to other employers in the workforce to clean up their acts to ensure they don't receive the same fate. Hard to argue, in fact I sometimes point out the possibility of such a danger in anti-harassment training that I do. And if, as some reports indicate, at least some of the comments have been confirmed as accurate by counsel for Fox News, then it is even harder to argue against the pleading.

And of course this pleading is quite tame compared to many I have seen, such as the complaint against Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly, which are salacious not just crude. See my post from a year ago, Mackris v. O'Reilly - A Sexual Harassment Complaint. Still, and although I know this boat sailed a long time ago, I can't help but wonder if the days when such a pleading would have been seen as scandalous rather than helpful, were not better days.

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