Monica Douglas, who is black, is a manager for the credits and collections department of Fox News. In the amended complaint filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court, Douglas asserts a long list of discriminatory behavior she was subjected to at the hands of longtime Fox News controller Judy Slater. Slater was fired on Feb. 28.
Douglas’ complaint asserts that top Fox News executives, including operations chief Bill Shine and Dianne Brandi, head of legal and business affairs, were aware of Slater’s conduct, but looked the other way for years. Brandi, Slater, Fox News, and parent company 21st Century Fox are named in the suit.
A Fox News spokesperson said Slater was fired before the plaintiffs filed complaints.
“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,” the statement reads. “There is no place for conduct like this at Fox News, which is why Ms. Slater was fired.”
The extensive details of alleged harassment and discrimination at Fox News come amid disclosures that its star primetime personality Bill O’Reilly has settled sexual harassment claims with five women in recent years, resulting in at least $13 million in settlements. The disclosures this weekend by the New York Times have prompted blue-chip advertisers Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and BMW to pull ads from “The O’Reilly Factor.” O’Reilly has acknowledged some settlements, but denied that the claims against him have merit.
Concurrent with the mushrooming O’Reilly scandal, Fox News on Monday was hit with another sexual harassment lawsuit alleging unlawful behavior by former chairman-CEO Roger Ailes. Ailes left the network last July after a 20-year reign amid a cascade of allegations that he used his powerful perch to harass numerous female employees and contributors. He has denied the claims.
Douglas’ amended complaint paints a picture of Slater engaging in shocking behavior, from rubbing her hands in Douglas’ hair to kicking her in the backside as she walked down the hall. The complaint includes a litany of racist and discriminatory statements Slater allegedly made to Douglas, including insulting her Panamanian heritage and ridiculing her accent. Slater went so far as to mock Douglas about having had a mastectomy due to breast cancer. Slater called her a “one-boobed girl” and “cancer girl,” among other taunts, according to the complaint.
Douglas’ accusations echo the points made in the original complaint filed by Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright. At the time Slater was fired, 21st Century Fox acknowledged the allegations against the 18-year executive and said in a statement: “There is no place for abhorrent behavior like this at Fox News.”
The complaint maintains that Brown was fired from her job as a payroll manager in retaliation for speaking out regarding Slater. Wright, a payroll coordinator, asserts she was demoted for the same thing.
Douglas maintains that Slater acted with impunity, going so far as to tell her: “Do not bother going to HR about Slater — I am HR,” according to the complaint, which also cites Fox News HR chief Denise Collins as failing to stop Slater’s behavior.
Douglas’ complaint asserts that Brandi failed to act on a complaint she made in November 2014 about Slater’s behavior. The following year, Fox News initiated an investigation of Slater after another employee complaint, but Douglas was ultimately informed by Brandi: “Slater will not be fired because she knows too much,” according to the complaint.
The swirl of sexual harassment and discrimination actions against Fox News is coupled with a Securities and Exchange Commission probe as to whether alleged settlements made in connection with Ailes’ conduct were properly reported on Fox’s financial statements to shareholders.