US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
National News Network Tried to Punish Female Employee for Complaining About Sex and Age Discrimination, Federal Agency Charges
WASHINGTON – 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.
Retaliation against an employee for making a discrimination complaint violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (EEOC v. Fox News Network LLC, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-01660) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks monetary relief for Herridge, including compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction enjoining Fox News from engaging in further retaliation against employees based on their opposition to employment practices which the employee reasonably believes to be unlawful under the federal statutes enforced by the EEOC.
“The anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII and other federal anti-discrimination laws are indispensable to the attainment of a workplace free of discrimination,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which oversees litigation filed by the agency in the District of Columbia. “Employers must take care that any action taken in response to a discrimination complaint is constructive and not retaliatory.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.