Less than a year after Roger Ailes was ousted as chairman of Fox News following a number of high-profile sexual harassment claims, the company was hit with new discrimination allegations in a lawsuit filed Tuesday night in New York. Two black women who worked in the Fox News payroll department claim the company’s longtime comptroller, Judith Slater, subjected them to “top-down racial harassment,” the New York Times reports.
Filed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, plaintiffs Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager, and Tabrese Wright, a payroll coordinator, allege Slater made racially-charged remarks, such as suggesting that black people wanted to cause white people physical harm and that black men were “wife beaters,” according to the Times. The lawsuit also claims Slater asked Wright if all of her children were “fathered by the same man,” and that Slater made disparaging remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement and about Wright’s hair and credit score. Slater also allegedly accused black employees of mispronouncing words like “month,” “father,” “mother,” and “ask” – and requested Brown actually say those words in a meeting.
“We are confident that the good men and women of the Bronx will hold Fox accountable for what we believe to be its abhorrent racist conduct, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era,” the plantiffs’ attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen of the Wigdor law firm, told the Times in a statement.
The women are not only suing Slater, but also Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox, alleging that Slater’s superiors essentially allowed her behavior to continue by doing little to address it. The result, according to the lawsuit, was a hostile work environment with “severe pervasive discrimination and harassment.”
Wright has been working at Fox News since 2014 and has allegedly spoken up about Slater’s behavior in the past. She was transferred out of the payroll department on Monday, which the suit claims was a demotion, though the company says it was a lateral move. Brown joined Fox in 2008 and was fired on Monday, according to the lawsuit, though the company contended on Tuesday night that she was still one of its employees. The suit notes that both women rejected a Fox settlement offer, and four other black employees who either left or were allegedly forced out are also named in the complaint.
Fox told the Times in a Tuesday statement that Slater was fired on February 28. “We take complaints of this nature very seriously and took prompt and effective remedial action before Ms. Brown and Ms. Wright sued in court and even before Ms. Wright complained through her lawyer,” the statement said. “There is no place for inappropriate verbal remarks like this at Fox News. We are disappointed that this needless litigation has been filed.”
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