At the time, Fox News Media claimed it was business as usual. “Fox News Media regularly considers programming changes, including to its daytime lineup, and will launch new formats as appropriate after the election,” the company said in a statement that month, per Variety. “These changes are being made independent of any other ongoing matter.”
But now The Washington Post reports Francis had a pay dispute with the company, which later agreed to a multi-million-dollar payout to settle her claim.
A Fox News executive told Francis that women earning less than men was “how the world works,” Francis said.
In November 2017, Fox gave Francis a promotion, making her a permanent co-host of Outnumbered. At the time, her salary was less than $1 million, and she believed it was much less than the salaries her peers were earning, she told the Post.
So, while she waited for her next contract negotiation in 2019, she collected data on what Fox News paid other people. Even after adjusting for other variables — like who had been working the longest, who was hosting Fox News shows solo, and who was hosting in primetime — Francis found that men were being paid many times more than women at the network, she said.
In November 2019, Dianne Brandi, a former executive vice president for legal and business affairs for Fox News, told Francis that her new contract wouldn’t include a pay bump. Francis then revealed her research into the network's “pretty staggering gender pay gap,” she said.
“That’s how the world works,” Brandi responded, according to Francis. “Women make less. It’s just a fact.” (A Fox News spokesperson said that Francis’ account of that conversation “is untrue and patently absurd.”)
After canceling her show in October 2020, Fox News paid Francis a settlement of around $15 million.
A human resources executive for Fox didn’t respond to Francis’ pay disparity complaint either, and the company didn’t grant her lawyer a disclosure of other Fox News stars’ salaries. So, Francis entered arbitration with the company in August 2020, and an arbiter gave the network a deadline of October 7, 2020, to disclose salary information. But on October 7, Francis found out she had been “canceled” via a message that popped up on her teleprompter before a taping of After the Bell, she said.
Later, Fox News paid Francis around $15 million in a settlement, according to documents the Post reviewed. “For a settlement this large, there would probably need to be pretty convincing evidence of an obvious and gross disparity in pay,” Ari Wilkenfeld, a partner at the Atkinson Law Group in Bethesda, Md., who isn't connected to the case, told the newspaper.
Francis also filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor “not for herself but for the women at the company who remain behind.”
Francis, a former child star who played Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, also filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor, alleging that Fox News retaliated against her after she reported pay disparities in the organization.
“We parted ways with Melissa Francis over a year and a half ago and her allegations were entirely without merit,” the Fox News spokesperson says. “We have also fully cooperated with the New York State Department of Labor’s investigation and look forward to the completion of this matter.”
Kevin Mintzer, Francis’ attorney, says that the former Outnumbered co-host filed the labor complaint “not for herself but for the women of the company who remain behind.”