Eight current and former Fox News employees, including presenter Kelly Wright, have joined a racial discrimination lawsuit against the cable channel alleging “plantation-style management” by top executives.
Kelly Wright, a two-time Emmy award winner, alleges that he was sidelined from programming and passed over for plum assignments that were given to white colleagues.
The lawsuit, which adds eight plaintiffs to the three Fox News employees who previously sued, is seeking class-action status.
The current and former Fox employees joining the lawsuit on Tuesday include Musfiq Rahman, Mark LeGrier, Mariela Lindsay, Vielka Rojas, Mauretta Thomas, Griselda Benson and Senami Tolode.
“When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox. We sincerely hope the filing of this race class action wakes 21st Century Fox from its slumbers and inspires the company to take a conciliatory and appropriate approach to remedy its wrongs,” said Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer representing the Fox employees.
A spokesperson for Fox News said: “Fox News and Dianne Brandi [Fox’s legal counsel] vehemently deny the race discrimination claims in both lawsuits. They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month. We will vigorously defend these cases.”
Judy Slater, Fox’s controller who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was fired by Fox before the case was filed.
Catherine M. Foti, attorney for Ms Slater, and a principal of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Anello, said: “These are meritless and frivolous lawsuits and all claims of racial discrimination against Ms Slater are completely false.
“We have yet to see the alleged additions to the original lawsuit. Given how outrageous and offensive these suits are, it’s incomprehensible to imagine how anyone has joined or would join these legal actions.”
Mr Wright, who has been with Fox since 2003, is the highest-profile employee to allege racial discrimination against the cable channel.
The allegations come as Fox is seeking to rebound from a spate of allegations of sexual harassment by Roger Ailes, the former chairman, and Bill O’Reilly, the host of the most popular programme in cable news, until he was removed last week.
According to the new allegations, Mr Wright says he was treated as an entertainer not a serious journalist. He alleges that he was asked by Mr O’Reilly to call Mr Ailes and Bill Shine, Fox’s current co-president, to “offer to sing the national anthem at Fox News town halls”, according to the lawsuit. Neither Mr O’Reilly, Mr Ailes or Mr Shine are named as defendants.
When Mr Wright, a member of the Martin Luther King Jr Board of Sponsors at Morehouse College, asked to appear on Mr O’Reilly’s programme to discuss the racial hostilities in Ferguson, Missouri, he was allegedly denied by Mr O’Reilly who said that his programme depicted black Americans in “too positive” a light, according to the lawsuit.
Mr Wright also alleges that Mr Shine regularly asked him “how do black people react to you?” and “how do you think white viewers look at you?” according to the lawsuit.
Mr Wright raised his concerns to Mr Shine, Dianne Brandi, Fox’s legal counsel, and Suzanne Scott, executive vice-president of programming and development, but his complaints fell “on deaf ears”, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also alleges that Mr Rahman, a dark-skinned Bangladeshi who was employed in accounts payable, mistakenly walked into Mr Ailes’ office on the second floor in 2014. The same day, according to the lawsuit, Mr Ailes had a wall erected outside his office.
The following day, Mr Rahman and other black employees in accounts payable had their security passes to the second floor revoked, according to the lawsuit. The employees were also forced to get “escorts” to accompany them whenever they needed to go to the second floor.