CNN Faces Growing Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

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Both Fox News and CNN are in court defending themselves from racial discrimination, though the color of each suit is different.

The one against Fox News has garnered more recent attention, perhaps thanks to questions that continue to circle around how the cable news network has handled allegations of harassment during the leadership of Roger Ailes. The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court last week by Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, alleges that the two women were subjected to "top-down racial harassment," specifically from Fox's longtime controller, Judith Slater, charged with making slurs and derogatory comments like "Why are all black men women-beaters?" 

The Fox News complaint (read here), which came on the heels of Slater's termination, further alleges that executives including Ailes and current president Bill Shine allowed for "repugnant racial discrimination to go unchecked." The suit picked up more publicity on Tuesday thanks to word that a third employee, Monica Douglas, was joining the action and was under pressure not to report Slater's behavior.

But Fox News is hardly alone. We're not suggesting any equivalency. Only that the growing lawsuit against CNN deserves attention, too.

Last December, CNN and other Time Warner units were hit with a proposed class action in Georgia federal court. The named plaintiffs include Celeslie Henley, who says she worked at CNN for seven years until she was allegedly fired after emailing human resources about discriminatory treatment.

Unlike the lawsuit against Fox News, the one against CNN and sister companies is much broader, claiming among other things that African-Americans receive lower performance ratings in evaluations, that there are dramatic differences in pay between similarly situated employees of different races and that the promotion of African-American employees is blocked by a "glass ceiling." The complaint (see here) cites hiring and advancement statistics while alleging that African-American employees have endured slurs from superiors, including "It's hard to manage black people" and "Who would be worth more: black slaves from times past, or new slaves?"

While the Fox News suit has grown by one additional employee, the case against CNN may soon become bigger by many multiples.

That's because after the defendants moved for dismissal or at least a more definitive statement about specific allegations, also raising the prospect that some of the claims may be barred by statute of limitations or by plaintiffs not exhausting administrative remedies, the plaintiffs' attorneys told the judge of their wish to file an amended complaint.

According to a plaintiffs' motion to amend that was filed March 23, "Since the filing of this action, counsels for the plaintiffs have been contacted by more than 175 people, both former and current employees of the Defendant, requesting to be members of the putative class action, all having similar complaints of intentional racial discrimination, discrimination impact and discriminatory practices employed by the Defendants."

The attorneys also write that many of the potential members recently coming forward are within the administrative process at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and awaiting their 90-days right-to-sue letter.

Time Warner has been given until April 14 to respond to the motion to amend the complaint.