Former Fox News employee alleges racism in workplace, sues for $5M
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As The Huffington Post and others have reported, a former Fox News employee -- Harmeen Jones -- is suing the network and several of his former supervisors and colleagues, alleging that after he complained about workplace racism, he was fired.
According to Jones, his co-workers "continually made racist, sexist, and extremely offensive comments throughout the course of every working day ... concern[ing] African-Americans, Arabs, Muslims, Hispanics, women, and Jews" and Jones was "treated in a hostile and threatening way due to his identification with the African-American race."
Jones, according to the complaint, met with his Fox News supervisors about the offensive comments of one of his co-workers, but that co-worker was not reprimanded. After that incident, "the working environment got markedly worse for Jones."
The complaint noted that "Jones was at a loss for what to do" and that "[Fox News Network's] employee handbook contained no information on what to do or who to talk to about racial harassment or discrimination." The complaint also said "Jones spoke with other African-American FNN employees about the harassment, who told him to keep his head down and not say anything," and other co-workers told Jones "there was no point in mentioning the racist comments and difficult work environment to Human Resources because they were friends with the people who were causing him difficulty."
Jones later had what is described in the complaint as a "productive meeting" about the situation with the head of Human Resources for News Corp., "who seemed to care about the difficulties he was facing and wanted to help him."
Though the News Corp. HR office facilitated a meeting between Jones and his Fox News supervisors that Jones perceived to be helpful, one week after that meeting, Jones was fired from his job with Fox News. According to the complaint, Fox News Director of Operations Steve Carey told Jones, "we gave you a chance, and you repay us by making complaints to HR? You're terminated."
The complaint describes several specific instances of workplace harassment, including one apparently triggered by footage of a "tea party" rally on health care reform:
One incident occurred during the debate over health care. While a few of the screens in the intake room were showing footage from a "tea party" rally on healthcare reform, Defendant McCool turned to Plaintiff Jones and said, in sum and substance, "this is what happens when you mess with white people's health care."
Another incident occurred during the 2008 presidential election campaign. Defendants Greco and McCool, sitting a few feet in front of Plaintiff Jones, discussed how they wouldn't feel comfortable having a black president. Defendant Greco then looked at Plaintiff Jones and on information and belief saw that his comments had made him offended and uncomfortable. Defendant Greco then said, in sum and substance, "am I offending your blackness?"
Throughout Plaintiff Jones' employment, Defendants Greco, McCool, and Rodriguez constantly told him in sum and substance "you look like a gangster" and "like you're ready to shoot someone."
Plaintiff Jones was subject to racist and demeaning comments at least everyother day throughout his employment at FNN.
Jones is seeking $3 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
Media Matters contacted Jones and he declined to comment, referring all calls to his lawyer, David B. Rankin, who was unavailable.