UPDATED with new Fox News statement: A Fox News Channel IT department employee who was the target of racially insensitive remarks from The Five co-host Bob Beckel that eventually led to his firing has joined the roster of a legal firm repping several current and former employees in racial discrimination and sexual harassment cases against the network.
Wigdor LLP said today that it is now repping the unnamed IT worker, and it filed three more complaints on behalf of three other women today in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York: Fox News Radio shift editor Kathleen Lee, former Accounts Payable coordinator Naima Farrow and Accounts Receivables specialist Vidya Mann.
The firm now reps 23 current and former employees of Fox, and today it also submitted to UK regulator Ofcom an update on the cases ahead of that body’s decision likely next month on whether to OK Fox acquiring Brit broadcaster Sky (read the latest letter here). That approval has been in limbo as the legal cases grow against Fox News; in corporate filings submitted by parent 21st Century Fox this month, it was revealed the company has paid out $45 million in legal settlements since Roger Ailes was fired last summer.
A Fox spokesperson responded to the filings today. “We have consistently demonstrated that the Company is committed to a diverse workplace that is free from all forms of discrimination, takes any complaint of discrimination seriously, and in these particular matters took prompt, effective and, where necessary, strong remedial action. We believe these latest claims are without legal basis and look forward to proving that Fox News at all times has acted appropriately, and lawfully, in connection with these matters.”
In the Beckel incident, according to attorney Douglas H. Wigdor today, the IT employee was called to perform work on Beckel’s computer on May 16. According to the firm, Beckel “rushed out of his office as soon as our client arrived. When our client asked Mr. Beckel why he was leaving the office, Mr. Beckel said he was leaving because our client is black.”
The employee complained to Kevin Lord, head of Human Resources, and Beckel was terminated three days later, though Widger said Beckel was permitted by Fox HR exes “to repeatedly pressure our client to withdraw his complaint so that he would not lose his job.”
Said Fox News on Friday: “As Mr. Wigdor knows, Fox News made the decision to terminate Mr. Beckel after a prompt and thorough investigation,” it said in a statement. “His client raised the complaint to Kevin Lord, EVP Human Resources, on Tuesday evening via email and within 7 minutes Mr. Lord responded and began the investigation. Today, Fox News delivered that message to Mr. Beckel and facilitated an apology from Mr. Beckel to the employee minutes after he was terminated. No one tried to persuade Mr. Wigdor’s client to withdraw his complaint.”
As for 21st Century Fox’s Sky deal, if it is derailed it would be the second time Rupert Murdoch had failed to gain total control of it. The first effort went down in flames in 2011 after the News of the World hacking scandal forced the then-named News Corp to scrap the deal.