Most corporations have policies designed to deal with gender discrimination. This problem is toxic and has no upside. It can be deeply entrenched and there is often a gap between the handbook policy and the reality of the workplace. There is only one way to deal with gender discrimination - eliminate the gap between what you say you do and what you do.
It will take time to assess the long-term effects (if there are any) that the fall of Bill O’Reilly (and Roger Ailes) will have on women’s struggle for equality and respect in the workplace. For now, there are several important facts about the O’Reilly/Ailes cases that are noteworthy.
First, their behavior harmed people who worked with or for them. Second, their behavior disrupted and damaged the corporation. Third, the decision makers at Fox chose to spend corporate money to settle law suits based on a calculation that valued O’Reilly/Ailes as profit centers above the corporation’s stated commitment to loyalty and fair dealing with its employees and its shareholders.
Many large corporations have the resources to do what Fox did: pay large sums for confidential settlements and attorney’s fees; engage in crisis management; campaign to repair the brand; work to restore lost or diminished employee loyalty and productivity. There are many more businesses without the resources to emulate Fox.
There is no shortage of robust policies to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct. However, they require principled action: prompt, impartial and confidential investigation and a willingness to follow the facts wherever they lead. Certainly, not every conflict between a woman and a man is gender discrimination. But if you do not conduct a thorough investigation and make a good faith decision based on the results, the O’Reilly/Ailes factor can infect your business, too.