Multiple Racial Discrimination Suits Hit Fox News as Legal Problems Pile Up
Plaintiffs have filed a pair of racial discrimination lawsuits against Fox News, dealing the beleaguered company another legal blow following the recent high-profile firing of anchor Bill O'Reilly over sexual harassment allegations.
The first suit is a class action filed by a group of current and former employees in New York State Supreme Court. They allege a history of race-based mistreatment at the workplace that senior executives at the company knew about but chose to ignore. The plaintiffs’ lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Jeanne M. Christensen, released a statement addressing 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News, saying:
When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox. We sincerely hope the filing of this race class action wakes 21st Century Fox from its slumbers and inspires the company to take a conciliatory and appropriate approach to remedy its wrongs.
The suit claims that former Fox News comptroller Judith Slater made numerous racist remarks to black employees, such as "Who is going to Africa?" after President Trump announced his travel ban, along with questioning how African-Americans pronounced words like "ask" and "mother."
Slater was fired by Fox in February. However, the plaintiffs allege that top executives at the company, including the director of human resources, knew about the comments but that "nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives" at Fox.
The suit was initially filed in March by Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, two black women who worked in the payroll department at Fox. They were later joined by Monica Douglas. Most recently, Kelly Wright added his name to the suit. Wright, who has been with Fox News for 15 years and won two Emmy Awards, remains with the company as an anchor.
The plaintiffs argue in the suit that "the only consistency at Fox is the abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination that was inflicted on minority employees that appears more akin to Plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment."
The second suit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York by former accounts payable worker Adasa Blanco, also specifically names Slater: "Fox knowingly harbored and protected a racist employee, Slater, for more than eight years and then feigned...to the media and public that it terminated her immediately upon learning that she engaged in discriminatory conduct."
Fox News, through a spokesman, has denied the claims made in both suits.
The racial discrimination allegations add to a long list of recent legal problems at Fox, coming so soon after the company forced out O'Reilly, which came only months after the removal of longtime CEO Roger Ailes last year, also over claims of sexual misconduct. Judith Roginsky, a former Fox News contributor, filed another sexual harassment suit against the network and top executives earlier this month.