Fox News, whose chairman, Roger Ailes, was ousted last year after a string of sexual harassment claims, is facing new allegations of discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday night in state Supreme Court in the Bronx, two black women said they were subjected to “top-down racial harassment” in the Fox News payroll department by Judith Slater, the company’s longtime comptroller.
The women — Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager, and Tabrese Wright, a payroll coordinator — accused Slater of making a slew of racially charged comments, including suggestions that black men were “women beaters” and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.
They also said that Slater claimed that black employees mispronounced words, such as “mother,” “father,” “month” and “ask,” and that she urged Brown to say those words aloud in a meeting. Wright said Slater once asked if her three children were all “fathered by the same man.”
“We are confident that the good men and women of the Bronx will hold Fox accountable for what we believe to be its abhorrent racist conduct, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen of the Wigdor law firm, said in a statement. The firm also represents two employees of The New York Times in a pending federal lawsuit against The Times, alleging age, race and gender discrimination.
Brown and Wright are suing Slater, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, claiming that Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in “severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.”
Wright, who joined Fox in mid-2014, spoke up about Slater’s behavior and was transferred out of the payroll department Monday, a move the lawsuit described as a demotion. Brown, who joined Fox in late 2008, was fired Monday. Both women declined a Fox settlement offer, according to the suit.
The company said Tuesday night that it took immediate action after learning about the allegations against Slater and fired her Feb. 28.
“We take complaints of this nature very seriously and took prompt and effective remedial action before Ms. Brown and Ms. Wright sued in court and even before Ms. Wright complained through her lawyer,” the company said in a statement. “There is no place for inappropriate verbal remarks like this at Fox News. We are disappointed that this needless litigation has been filed.”
Fox News did not provide contact information for Slater, and it was not clear if she had retained legal counsel.
The suit also includes allegations that Slater made disparaging comments about Wright’s hair and credit score. She and Brown said Slater had mocked the Black Lives Matter movement and referred to their majority-black department as the “urban” or “Southern” payroll department.
The lawsuit included the names of four other black employees who it said left or were forced out and cited similar accusations of discrimination.