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Former Fox News host Melissa Francis received a settlement of roughly $15 million from the network after complaining about gender-based pay discrepancies and discrimination at the conservative cable giant.
The enormous pay-out, which is on par with the huge settlements that Fox News gave a number of female employees who alleged sexual misconduct from former CEO Roger Ailes and ex-star Bill O’Reilly, was first reported by The Washington Post on Sunday.
The revelation about Francis’ settlement amount comes just months after The Daily Beast first reported that she had filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor, claiming that Fox News retaliated against her for pointing out the pay disparity.
While neither Francis nor her attorney Kevin Mintzer would comment on the settlement amount, Mintzer did provide a statement on Francis’ complaint with the labor department.
“Melissa filed her charge with the Department of Labor not for herself but for the women of the company who are still there,” Mintzer told The Daily Beast. “Contrary to Fox News’ false claims about a ‘new era,’ what happened to Melissa shows that sexism and retaliation are still prevalent at the network. We continue to cooperate with the Department of Labor, and we look forward to receiving the findings of their investigation.”
A network spokesperson provided the following response from Fox News Media: “FOX News has always been committed to the equitable treatment of all employees which we have demonstrated consistently over our 26-year history, and we are extremely proud of our business. We parted ways with Melissa Francis over a year and a half ago and her allegations were entirely without merit. We have also fully cooperated with the New York State Department of Labor’s investigation and look forward to the completion of this matter.”
The spokesperson also noted that Fox has overhauled in workplace culture over the years, which has included the elevation of many women into leadership positions as well as on-air.
While the network says that Francis’ allegations are “entirely without merit,” one lawyer not connected to the ex-host’s case told The Washington Post that a settlement this large indicates there was probably “pretty convincing evidence of an obvious and gross disparity in pay.”
A former TV child actress, Francis joined Fox News Media in 2012 as an anchor for Fox Business and, in 2017, was given the opportunity to serve as a permanent co-host of the Fox News midday roundtable show Outnumbered. At the same time, Francis continued to anchor her midafternoon Fox Business program After the Bell.
In October 2020, however, she was abruptly pulled off of both shows amid her pay dispute with the network.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Francis said that when she was first offered the promotion to Outnumbered in 2017, she was given a “negligible increase in compensation,” which was below $1 million a year and below what similar hosts were making. According to Francis, she agreed to wait until the next contract negotiation in 2019.
During this time, she claimed she kept a spreadsheet comparing the salaries of others at Fox, based on her conversations with colleagues and agents. Even adjusting for experience, ratings, and time slots, she said she found that men at the network were paid significantly more than women.
She also recounted a conversation she had with former Fox News executive vice president for legal and business affairs Dianne Brandi in Nov. 2019. (Brandi continues to represent Fox News in certain contract matters.) At the time, Francis asserted, Brandi informed her she would not receive a compensation increase, prompting Francis to note that she had found a “pretty staggering gender pay gap.”
With the network having recently elevated Suzanne Scott to CEO and prompted other female executives, Francis said Brandi made the following statement to her: “That’s how the world works. Women make less. It’s just a fact.” Fox News, in a statement to The Daily Beast, disputed that exchange.
“Melissa Francis’s version of that conversation is untrue and patently absurd — furthermore, it is illogical that anyone with Dianne Brandi’s level of experience in negotiating talent contracts for a living would make such a ludicrous statement,” a network spokesperson said.
Francis stated that after the network denied her lawyer’s request to disclose the salaries of her colleagues, she entered into arbitration with Fox in August 2020. The arbitrator, according to Francis, set a deadline of Oct. 7 for the network to provide salary information.
15 minutes before the 4 p.m. ET broadcast of After the Bell that day, Francis said she saw this pop up on her teleprompter as she prepared to go on air: “You’ve been canceled.”
She never appeared on Fox again, and she eventually tendered her resignation on Feb. 2, 2021.
Diana Falzone was an on-camera and digital reporter for FoxNews.com from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender discrimination and disability lawsuit against the network and settled, and left the company in March 2018.