7:13pm PT by Ashley Cullins
21st Century Fox Can't Dodge Local Reporter's Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit
A New York federal judge won't yet dismiss a local Fox reporter's claim that she was fired in retaliation for complaining about discrimination — and found it's too early to tell whether it was irrelevant for her to reference other women's allegations against Roger Ailes and Billl O'Reilly in her complaint.
Lidia Curanaj in December 2016 sued 21st Century Fox for discrimination and harassment, claiming she was repeatedly denied a full-time position at its affiliate Fox5 because of her age and looks and was rejected for a job at Fox News because Ailes realized she would be "unwilling to submit to him, sexually." In an amended complaint, she included allegations made by others against Ailes and O'Reilly as evidence of a corporate culture of misogyny, harassment and retaliation.
21st Century Fox moved to dismiss her claims, arguing that it isn't her employer and therefore isn't liable for any alleged retaliation because Fox5 makes its own hiring and firing decisions.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan denied Fox's motion to dismiss the complaint, but granted the network's request to convert it to a motion for partial summary judgment. She found it would be prejudicial to rule on that motion now, however, and is giving Curanaj an opportunity to conduct discovery. (Read the full decision below.)
Fox also asked the court to strike the portions of Curanaj's amended complaint that focus on Ailes and O'Reilly as irrelevant and prejudicial. While Nathan isn't entirely convinced that including stories about their alleged behavior with other women wasn't an "opportunistic" attempt to attract publicity, as Fox alleges, she's not sure they aren't relevant either.
"Defendants contend that these alleged prior acts are irrelevant because they are alleged to have occurred at Fox News Channel, for which Plaintiff never worked," writes Nathan. "Nonetheless, because the court is converting the motion to dismiss to an early summary judgment motion, it is premature to conclude that this alleged conduct is completely irrelevant to Plaintiff's claims. If, after discovery, it turns out that any human resource policies, practices and decisions made at Fox5 are entirely separate and apart from other portions of the Twenty-First Century Fox empire, precluding evidence of those prior acts and striking them from the complaint may be warranted."