Why the Sexual Harassment Scandal at Fox News Should Frighten Employees in North Carolina

If you need a North Carolina employment attorney, you probably aren’t thinking about the story of  Gretchen Carlson’s firing by Fox News and her lawsuit against the CEO. The story is well known by now: a news anchor in New York City says she was dismissed because she was sexually harassed by her boss, Roger Ailes, and she refused to go along with it. As many as 20 other women at FOX News tell of harassment by Ailes, including a woman who reported nearly 20 years of forced sex and “psychological torture” from Mr. Ailes.  No one would disagree that the harassment was terrible for the women involved.

North Carolina employees should take note, however: Gretchen Carlson’s firing and the reasons for it could easily have been swept under the rug. Ms. Carlson had an employment contract that allowed all disputes to be settled by forced arbitration. And North Carolina employees can be subject to forced arbitration too.

What is Forced Arbitration? Forced arbitration is a way to keep employees (and consumers) out of court. Some call it mandatory arbitration rather than forced, but arbitration is only mandatory because it is forced on an employee. Sometimes big companies stick the part of the contract that requires arbitration in the agreements that are signed at the beginning of employment. The requirement also could be written in a separate contract after the employment has begun. But the effect is the same:  forced arbitration is chosen by companies so that the legal process is changed if employees claim that they are discriminated against or harassed.

No Judge or Jury.  There is no judge and there is no jury when arbitration is forced on an employee. Arbitration can keep all evidence out of the public eye, because the employer can require that everything be kept secret that happens in the arbitration. Contrast that with a lawsuit, where every paper filed with the court is on view. The arbitrator who decides the case is often selected by the same company that is accused of doing something wrong and harmful.  The deck is stacked in favor of the employer.

Why is Forced Arbitration a bad thing?

  • Evidence and discovery can be limited: employees cannot find out about other employees who have suffered the same way they have
  • Companies can still choose to go to court – it is the employee that cannot
  • Employees’ awards after discrimination or harassment are often less than after court trials
  • Employees’ chances of winning are smaller than with a lawsuit
  • Sometimes employers have bad patterns of conduct that are kept secret by arbitration
  • Costs can be high when the employee has to pay a share of the arbitrator’s fee

The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution gives the right to trial by jury. But courts have often said that people and companies can decide to go to arbitration and the court will recognize the contract. When challenged, sometimes courts have decided to make arbitrations public, even if they are meant to be confidential in the contract.

Tia’s Story.  Think it is only news anchors and celebrities who have to worry about forced arbitration? Think again!  Take the story of an employee of Circuit City, the old electronics retailer.  Tia was harassed by her boss when she was in training to be a manager. The harassment was disgusting, including when the boss exposed his genitals to Tia. Some of the harassment was caught on tape. It was not until then when Circuit City fired him.

Tia filed a lawsuit. But even though the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission found in her favor, Tia’s case was thrown out of court because of the arbitration clause that was buried in her employment agreement.

Tia then went to arbitration because she had no choice. But as we know, Circuit City went out of business.   Tia’s case was over.

Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit is against Roger Ailes, and not her employer FOX News.  This may allow her to get into court. But it may not:  Ailes lawyers filed a motion to force Ms. Carlson back into arbitration.   You should be allowed to take your case to a judge and jury.  Your right to a jury trial ought to be fought for, just like any other constitutional right.

If you need an employment discrimination attorney or an employment rights attorney in North Carolina, call us.  Valerie Johnson and Leto Copeley are here to help.

Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC is a law firm focused on representing individuals and their family members who find themselves in circumstances that they never expected.  Their clients include those who have been injured on the job, on the road, and on the premises of businesses and public facilities.  They also help those whose employers have violated their legal rights.  For more on this firm, visit http://www.cjglawfirm.com.

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Road Rage and Aggressive Driving Remains a Serious Safety Hazard for North Carolina Drivers

Across North Carolina, car accidents linked to reckless driving continues to increase. With 80% of U.S. drivers experiencing road rage while behind the wheel, it is safe to say measures must be taken in order to prevent and minimize injuries linked to aggressive drivers. Far too many preventable car accidents occur each year due to distracted, aggressive and negligent driving behaviors while behind the wheel.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, accidents linked to aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise:

  • Between 2011 and 2015, there were a reported total of 55,000 car accidents in North Carolina as a result of careless driving.
  • Accidents related to careless driving resulted in 1,401 fatalities in North Carolina between 2011 and 2015.
  • The AAA Carolina’s Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 8 million U.S drivers experience extreme road rage.

Unfortunately, North Carolina is not the only state that deals with this issue. 78% of U.S drivers reported to being involved in at least one aggressive driving behavior in the past year. The most common aggressive driving behaviors include: abusing the car horn, knowingly tailgating other vehicles and yelling at other motorists.

Tiffany Wright, President of The AAA Carolina’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, reminds North Carolina drivers to always remain calm behind the wheel. Frustrations and aggressive driving can dramatically increase a motorist’s risk of being involved in a car accident.

At Daggett Shuler Law, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina Personal Injury lawyers, we care about the safety of all North Carolina drivers. Please remember to remain calm on the roads at all times. Do not allow frustration to put yourself and others in a dangerous position on the road.

If you or a loved one is injured in an accident involving an aggressive driver, call Daggett Shuler Law right away at 336-724-1234. When you call, you will speak with an experienced Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney absolutely FREE. We will review every detail of your accident at no cost and fight hard to protect your rights.

When you call Daggett Shuler, you will speak with an experienced Winston-Salem and Greensboro attorney at no cost to you. We will investigate every detail of your situation and fight hard to protect your rights. At Daggett Shuler Law, you will never pay an attorney’s fee up front and you owe us nothing unless we recover for you.

 

Daggett Shuler is a law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of victims injured in accidents, workers hurt on the job and of people in need of Social Security Disability benefits.   For more information or for contact information for their Winston-Salem or Greensboro offices, visit www.daggettshulerlaw.com.