Racial discrimination suit against Fox expands with two more claimants

As a racial discrimination suit against Fox News Network expands, the network continues to shuffle executive ranks to try and get beyond a damaging sexual harassment crisis.

Two additional plaintiffs are joining a suit initially filed six weeks ago in the Bronx Supreme Court in New York against multiple parties, including the network, parent company 21st Century Fox, Fox News and Fox Business Executive Vice President Dianne Brandi, and Judith Slater, a former senior vice president and company controller.

The suit, which now includes 13 former and current Fox employees, alleges that the network engaged in "systemic discrimination based on race, ethnicity and national origin." The newest additions, Elizabeth Fernandez and Claudine McLeod, both worked in the accounts payable department, which Fernandez departed in 2014 and where McLeod continues to work.

The suit expands as Fox News looks to rebound from an advertiser boycott that led to Fox's April 19 dismissal of its star host Bill O'Reilly after reports of harassment allegations made against him. Last week came the resignation of network co-head Bill Shine, who had been mentioned in several lawsuits filed against Fox News for allowing a workplace culture in which sexual harassment and racial discrimination could develop.

At the time of Shine's departure, 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch named Suzanne Scott, the network's top female executive, and Jay Wallace, who like Scott joined Fox News in 1996, as Fox News presidents.

And today, Murdoch announced that Marianne Gambelli would become Fox News’ president of advertising sales. Previously the chief investment officer at Horizon Media, Gambelli spent 22 years at NBC, most recently as NBCUniversal's president of sales and marketing.

O'Reilly's on-air replacement Tucker Carlson has managed to eliminate the crisis in the 8 p.m. ET hour. All of the commercial breaks have been restored for Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox says, and all advertisers that left the hour have returned.

Two weeks ago, two-time Emmy Award winning and former co-host of Fox and Friends Kelly Wright joined the discrimination suit. Wright, who has been at Fox for 15 years, said in the suit, "because he is Black ... has been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a 'Jim Crow' – the racist caricature of a Black entertainer."

Fernandez and McLeod allege they were "subjected to numerous discriminatory comments and conduct by (the former controller) Slater." Fernandez, who is Hispanic, said in the suit that when she was pregnant with her first son, Slater, during a meeting, asked "if she knew the sex of the baby and if she planned on having more kids because 'Latinas like having a ton of kids'."

McLeod, who is Panamanian and black, charges Slater with telling her “You people are high maintenance” in regards to health insurance costs and drive "up everyone's ... premiums."

Fox fired Slater on Feb. 28. “Fox News terminated Judy Slater before a single lawsuit or any amended complaint was filed,” the network said in a statement Monday.

© 2017 USA TODAY


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