Fox News’ Problems With Hostile Workplace Environment Issues Are Far From Over

by Dena Leichnitz

Employees of Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox are alleging there has been racial discrimination at the news station.  While many are thinking this lawsuit is trying to piggyback on the ill will already established by the ouster of Bill O’ Reilly, the truth of the matter is that this was long in the works even before Bill was fired from his job.

The lawsuit has to do primarily with the behavior of Judith Slater.  Ms. Slater is the comptroller for Fox News and the employees which have filed suit are in the payroll department and though the lawsuite was filed at the end of the March, complaints against Ms. Slater go back as 2008. Ms. Dianne Bandi, who is a “top lawyer at Fox News,” is also named as one of the defendants in a separate case filed by a Fox employee, Adasa Blanco. 

“The lawsuit filed by Ms. Blanco (who filed a separate lawsuit against Ms. Slater) contends that she informed Ms. Brandi (a defendant in the lawsuit) about Ms. Slater’s conduct as early as September 2008.”

The plantiffs have stated why their case didn’t come about sooner is because they were told, “nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives,” including Roger E. Ailes, the company’s former chief executive; Mark Kranz, the chief financial officer; and Mr. O’Reilly. (New York Times)

With both Ailes and O’Reilly gone they were now able to file suit. The two black women who filed the lawsuit in March were Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright. Ms. Blanco’s suit followed thereafter. But with 11 employess who have signed on board as part of the class action suit it won’t be long until Fox has to answer for its behavior in a court of law.

The validity of the lawsuit has been called into question by people who are fans of Fox News and Bill O’Reilly.  As if just because we had a Black president, it means racism is no longer alive and well. Of course the main confusion may come from Fox itself.  On one hand Fox has claimed, “All claims of racial discrimination against Ms. Slater are completely false…A Fox News spokeswoman said the network and Ms. Brandi “vehemently” denied the allegations, calling them “copycat claims” from the original lawsuit.”  Then you have a statement from Good Morning America that claimed that Fox stated: “We take complaints of this nature very seriously and took prompt and effective remedial action in terminating Judy Slater before Ms. Brown, Ms. Wright and Ms. Douglas sued in court and even before Ms. Wright and Ms. Douglas complained through their lawyer. There is no place for conduct like this at Fox News, which is why Ms. Slater was fired.”

So which is it Fox? Is it frivolous or do you take these claims seriously? And while you have Chicks on the Right, calling it “just another lawsuit.”  No doubt that Fox is not feeling that is “just another lawsuit” and with both their main star and their former chief executive being fired for sexual harassment, there seems to be more resonance to this case than Chicks on the Right might think.  As more people are joining the lawsuit, we will eventually see how big a problem really is at Fox. In the meantime, Fox is going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting to get its ratings back to where it used to be, back when they were “fair and balanced.” 

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