It’s been nearly three years since Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against then-CEO Roger Ailes, prompting a slew of similar high-profile suits and executive oustings both at Fox and at other major networks. Media’s MeToo moment is as visible as Hollywood’s, toppling giants like CBS’s Les Moonves, NBC’s Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose. But the women who filed suits against them and men like them say they too are now paying a professional price.
In a piece for Vanity Fair, Diana Falzone, a former Fox News contributor who sued the network for gender discrimination in 2017, noted that she had heard from a number women in media who settled lawsuits against sexual harassers that they were finding themselves unofficially blacklisted from other jobs. “The very same people who publicly applaud you for speaking up about bad behavior will never hire you into their own organizations because you are forever pegged as a whistleblower and a troublemaker,” one woman told her. Another said her lawsuit against a harasser came up during an interview:
One woman, who recalled being told she was “overqualified” for a broadcasting job, lost out on a potential job after her interviewer asked why she had sued and settled with her previous employer. “I . . . I didn’t do anything,” she responded. “It was done to me, but that’s in the past. I just want to work. I want to do what I love again.” The interviewer huffed: “Well, I believe what you’re saying, but I’m going to check around to see what your reputation really is.”
These “blacklists” are, of course, unofficial, Falzone says, but they do demonstrate the prevailing the hold powerful men have had over the industry for decades, even after they’re gone.
“Just look at some of the men who, until recently, have run or otherwise wielded power in this industry. Look at the culture they created, perpetuated, or tolerated,” employment lawyer Martin Hyman told Falzone. “And look at the people who enabled the harassers, including, in some cases, talent agents who politely demur or decline to represent these courageous women after their cases have settled. Did these women suddenly lose their talent, motivation, or popularity?”
Blowback against women who file sexual harassment suits isn’t just limited to media. In 2017, the Cut wrote about Rena Weeks, a woman who filed a suit against a high-profile law firm in the 1990s after she was harassed by a partner. Weeks struggled to find work after her suit went to court:
After her suit first reached the courts, she said she turned to one of her attornies. “I said, ‘Can I go out and look for a job now?’” she recalled. “And he goes, ‘Who’s going to want to hire you?’” It turned out that he was exactly right. “Blackballed in the marketplace totally, and in any other career I wanted or even thought to have,” is how she described it. “Nobody’s going to want to hire you, because you’re a liability.”
And though there are some successful suits that result in high settlements (and Charlize Theron movies) most payouts aren’t significant enough to be self-sustaining.
As one former network anchor told Falzone: “Getting a settlement, paying a fortune to lawyers and taxes, left me with nothing. And now many of us can’t get jobs again in TV. So how did that help us? How are we benefiting? We aren’t.”