Fox News pays Melissa Francis $15 million after pay disparity complaint

Melissa Francis, who quietly disappeared from Fox News in October 2020, received a $15-million settlement after she filed a gender-based, pay-disparity claim against the network.

The financial settlement, first reported Sunday by the Washington Post, came after Francis attempted to gather data on what other on-air employees earned at Fox News.

Francis has also filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor alleging that Fox News retaliated for her raising the equitable-pay issue.

Francis, 49, was a regular fixture on Fox News — where she was a panelist on the daytime chat show “Outnumbered” — and Fox Business Network from 2012-20.

A Fox News representative would not confirm the payment while noting the company is disputing the complaint Francis filed with the state.

“We parted ways with Melissa Francis over a year and a half ago and her allegations were entirely without merit,” the company said in a statement. “We have also fully cooperated with the New York State Department of Labor’s investigation and look forward to the completion of this matter.”

According to the Post, Francis collected salary information from former colleagues and agents in preparation for her contract negotiation in 2019. She determined that men were paid more than their female counterparts in similar roles on the network.

Francis’ lawyer asked Fox News to disclose the salaries of other Fox News on-air stars, which the company refused. She filed for arbitration in early 2020. An arbitrator asked Fox News for the salary information, setting an Oct. 7 deadline — which turned out to be Francis’ last day on the air.

The Times reported Francis’ unexplained departure on Oct. 22, 2020, at which time Fox News said she remained an employee at the company. The Post said she resigned Feb. 2, 2021.

In an interview with the Post, Francis said her concerns that men were paid far more than women at Fox News were dismissed when presented to Dianne Brandi, a former top executive at the network who allegedly said, “Women make less. It’s just a fact.”

A Fox News representative denied that Brandi, who handled many talent contract negotiations during her tenure, ever made such a statement.

The report of the payment to Francis, who did not respond to a request for comment, is a setback for the company’s efforts to improve its workplace image hurt by the revelations that its former chief executive Roger Ailes sexually harassed female employees.

Fox News paid anchor Gretchen Carlson $20 million to settle her sexual discrimination lawsuit against the company in 2016. The complaint led to the downfall of Ailes, who departed the network that year and died in 2017.

The company paid out settlements to other female employees who filed complaints. In 2017, Bill O’Reilly, the network’s biggest star at the time, personally paid $32 million to a contributor on his show who accused him of coercing her into a sexual relationship.

Fox News has since expanded its human resources department and made it easier for employees to file complaints. The network has also increased the number of female managers, which include Fox News Media Chief Executive Suzanne Scott.

“Over the last six years, Fox News has undergone a comprehensive overhaul of its entire workplace culture — including tripling the size of its HR department, promoting more women in the executive ranks, elevating women in on-air host positions, as well as launching multiple mentoring programs and employee resource groups for women,” the company said in a statement.

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