A Washington federal judge granted Fox News Network summary judgment (PDF) Thursday afternoon in an age and gender discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge.
Herridge, a national correspondent covering homeland security, filed a discrimination complaint with the commission in the fall of 2008, accusing the network of not offering her an anchor job because of her age – 43, at the time – and gender. She also accused network brass of retaliating against her during contract negotiations for bringing concerns about discrimination to supervisors.
The commission filed a lawsuit (PDF)lawsuit against the network last September on Herridge’s behalf. In the opinion released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon found that the commission had failed to make sufficient claims in the complaint of retaliation or show that Herridge suffered any material harm.
“Indeed, it is hard to imagine how a reasonable employee would be dissuaded from engaging in protected activity if that employee were still able to secure not only a multi-year employment contract, but also a multi-year raise!” Leon wrote.
Frank Morris Jr., and Barry Asen of Epstein Becker & Green represented Fox News. Commission staff attorney Tracy Spicer brought the case. The attorneys and a Fox News representative did not immediately return requests for comment.
Herridge joined Fox News in 1996 and came to the Washington bureau in 2001. Starting in 2006, according to the commission’s complaint, Herridge began to complain to the bureau chief that female and African American correspondents were being given “less desirable shifts.”
Having expressed interest in an anchor position, Herridge was given a trial run on the weekend desk from fall 2006 to 2007. At the end of the trial run, however, Herridge was reassigned to her reporter position and the anchor job was filled by a man. Herridge began to complaint that she was denied the position because of her gender and her age at the time, 43.
When Herridge’s contract came up for renewal in the summer of 2008, the commission accused the network of including an inappropriate and retaliatory reference to Herridge’s discrimination complaints in the proposed contract.
The commission claims contract negotiations stalled because Herridge refused to sign an agreement that included the new language. But Fox Network, in its motion (PDF) for summary judgment, countered that Herridge had made unreasonable demands for salary increases. Fox News had offered to increase her annual salary in increments from $460,000 to $570,000 over the course of the next three years.
Herridge, according to Fox News’ brief, made a counter offer at one point for a salary of $621,000 in the first year, to increase annually over the next five years to $993,739 in the fifth year.
Leon wrote that he didn’t buy the commission’s claim that the new contract was retaliatory and, even if it was, that it caused Herridge any harm. The judge noted that despite the language, Fox News was still offering a salary increase, and that Fox News had offered a nondiscriminatory reason for the stalled contract talks, that Herridge was asking for too much.