Herridge is not alone: News Corp.'s history of discrimination complaints

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it is suing Fox News for allegedly retaliating against correspondent Catherine Herridge's internal gender and age discrimination complaints. The Herridge case is only the latest in a long line of discrimination complaints against News Corp. and its subsidiaries.

EEOC suing Fox for allegedly retaliating against reporter's age and gender discrimination complaints

Fox News sued by EEOC for retaliation against correspondent who accused the network of age and gender discrimination. On September 30, the EEOC announced a lawsuit against Fox News for retaliation against homeland security correspondent Catherine Herridge. The EEOC alleged that Fox News retaliated against Herridge after she complained about discrimination by asking her to sign a contract which included an assurance that she would not alledge discrimination in the future. The EEOC's press release noted:

New York-based Fox News Network LLC, which owns and operates the Fox News Channel based in Washington, D.C., retaliated against news reporter Catherine Herridge after she complained to Fox that she was subjected to disparate pay and unequal employment opportunities because of her gender and age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's complaint, during 2007 Herridge made several complaints to management officials at Fox News about employment practices that she believed were discriminatory. Fox conducted an investigation into Herridge's allegations beginning around December 2007, but notified Herridge that no evidence of age and sex discrimination had been found.

Around the summer or fall of 2008, Fox News included language in Herridge's employment contract, which was set for renewal, that referenced Herridge's discrimination complaints and was intended to stop Herridge from making more of them in the future, the EEOC charged. Herridge refused to sign the employment contract until the language was removed. Thereafter, Fox refused to negotiate further with Herridge, would not respond to counteroffers as to substantive issues in the proposed contract, and ceased speaking to her agent or to her about her contract.

As a result of Fox's refusal to proceed with a new employment contract absent the retaliatory language, Herridge became an “at-will” employee without any job protections, causing her considerable stress, the EEOC alleged. It was only after Herridge filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and an EEOC investigator conducted an on-site investigation, that Fox agreed to take out the retaliatory language and presented Herridge with a new contract with the retaliatory language removed, in June 2009 which she signed.

Herridge suit latest in long line of gender and race discrimination allegations against News Corp.

Fox News settled sex discrimination suit, which alleged Fox VP “used obscene terms to describe women and their body parts.” According to an August 1, 2006, Bloomberg News article, Fox News Network agreed to pay $225,000 “to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sex discrimination suit.” Bloomberg reported that the EEOC complaint included allegations that Fox News Vice President Joe Chillemi “used obscene terms to describe women and their body parts”; that women were “assigned to freelance positions with fewer benefits, less advancement potential and lower job security than others”; and that “Chillemi, during a department discussion about discrimination in the workplace, said that when choosing between hiring a man or a woman, 'of course I'd pick the man. The woman would most likely get pregnant and leave.'”

In 2004, Bill O'Reilly settled a sexual harassment lawsuit from producer. On October 29, 2004, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly settled a $60 million sexual harassment suit from a former producer who reportedly accused O'Reilly of “repeatedly engaging in offensive sex talk with her, of having unwanted phone sex with her while using a vibrator on himself, and of describing his fantasies about having sex with her in a shower.” O'Reilly also dropped the suit he had filed “against the producer, claiming that she and her lawyer had tried to extort money from him” and told his television audience that there had been “no wrongdoing in this case whatsoever by anyone.”

New York Post sued for racial discrimination by former editor. In October 2009, associate editor Sandra Guzman was fired from the New York Post shortly after speaking out against a controversial editorial cartoon, which was widely criticized for having racial undertones. Following her termination, Guzman filed a lawsuit against the Post's parent company, News Corp., for sexual and racial discrimination and harassment. According to the complaint, received November 9, 2009:

As a result of the nearly all White and male dominated management and newsroom at the Post, its work environment is permeated with racist and sexist conduct and comments towards employees of color and women. However, the Post's blatant acts of race and sex discrimination and/or harassment have not been directed solely at its own employees. Rather, the Post has also repeatedly targeted people of color and women outside of the Company with its racism and sexism through racially and sexually offensive news headlines, news stories and humiliating, insulting, and degrading cartoons.

The complaint further cited “retaliation” taken against employees who “complain about the discrimination in the workplace.” Guzman, who is African-American and Puerto Rican, claimed that not only was she retaliated against for expressing her dissatisfaction, numerous racist and sexually harrasing incidents occurred against her and her colleagues. As of September 28, the Post had lost a bid to dismiss the lawsuit.

Following Guzman's complaint, other Post employees alleged racial discrimination. Following Guzman's lawsuit, two other New York Post employees alleged racial discrimination. Austin Fenner, a former employee also publicly expressed concerns with the controversial cartoon, claimed he was discriminated against for being African-American. According to The Huffington Post, who received a copy of the complaint:

The 27-page document mainly asserts that editors repeatedly yelled profanities at Fenner, made him travel further and more frequently than his “White” colleagues and denied him the same resources that other reporters received to cover events. Such accusations are occasionally levied in other newsrooms, though the Post has a lengthy history of poor race relations in the newsroom.

There are, however, certain charges that do stick out. Fenner alleges that the two defendants -- Michelle Gotthelf, the metropolitan editor of the Post and Fenner's direct superviser as well as Daniel Greenfied, the assignment editor and deputy metropolitan editor at the paper -- banned him from entering the Post's newsroom for a five-month period.

“Specifically,” the complaint alleges, “they told Mr. Fenner that he was forbidden from coming into the newsroom anymore unless he got their permission in advance... Mr. Fenner's ban from the newsroom was an act of utter humiliation designed to strip him of his dignity and self-respect as a reporter and as a man and was based on his race and/or color and implemented to punish him for his opposition to Defendants' discriminatory practices. It was also a throwback to the days of Jim Crow segregation.”

Ikimulisa Livingston, who is still employed as a reporter at the Post, also filed a retaliation suit, claiming that she was demoted after criticizing the cartoon.

In suit against Harper Collins, Judith Regan alleged “clear evidence of News Corp.'s double standard and discrimination against women.” In 2007, Judith Regan filed a wrongful termination suit against News Corp.'s publishing house Harper Collins, which was settled in 2008. In the suit, Regan alleged that her termination is “clear evidence of News Corp.'s double standard and discrimination against women.” As evidence of her claim, Regan stated that she “repeatedly complained” about her “success [being attributed] to nothing more than her 'golden vagina'" but that “nothing was ever done” about “this sexist and insulting remark.”

Fox Sports host was accused of sexual harassment by former employee. In 2003, Lisa Brescher, a hairstylist for the show Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox Sports Net, filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment against host and former NBA player John Salley. According to the complaint, Brescher “was subjected to an environment of unrestrained sexual harassment.” Brescher further claimed that host Tom Arnold “didn't care” when she presented her complaints, and retaliated by banning her from the set. Arnold denied the allegations. According to court documents, the case was later settled.