A former reporter in Michigan has filed a $100 million dollar federal lawsuit against her previous employer, Scripps Media, Inc. (d/b/a “WXYZ-TV”), alleging years of sexual harassment and workplace retaliation.
Tara Edwards worked at WXYZ-TV for more than five years, enduring regular, uninvited sexual advances from news anchor Malcolm Maddox, according to the complaint. The lawsuit also alleges that after Ms. Edwards reported the harassment to her employer, WXYZ-TV failed to take remedial corrective actions against Mr. Maddox’s inappropriate workplace behavior.
Ms. Edwards Suffered Years of “Repulsive” Harassment
Ms. Edwards worked with Mr. Maddox, and he regularly asked her “to engage in unwanted and unsolicited sexual acts that she found to be deviant and perverse,” according to the complaint filed by Ms. Edwards’ attorney, Michael Hanna of Morgan & Morgan.
In addition to making multiple attempts to “kiss her on the face and mouth at work,” Mr. Maddox would attempt to show her explicit photos and videos of himself and others, including coworkers, the lawsuit alleges.
Ms. Edwards always declined Mr. Maddox’s advances, and in one instance told him that his actions “repulsed” her. During this time, she made numerous requests that he stop harassing her.
Yet, after years of enduring Mr. Maddox’s abuses, Ms. Edwards learned that in addition to making lewd and inappropriate comments to her, Mr. Maddox also spread false and perverse sexual rumors about Ms. Edwards throughout the workplace, according to the lawsuit.
Suit Alleges WXYZ Retaliated Against Ms. Edwards After She Filed a Complaint
In response to Ms. Edwards’ complaint, the network launched an investigation that uncovered that she had not been the only woman Mr. Maddox harassed.
Other female employees said they had also received inappropriate text messages, sexually perverted comments, and requests to look at pictures of his penis, according to the complaint.
However, even though the network determined Mr. Maddox engaged in “inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to company policy,” he was not fired. Not only was he not fired, but Mr. Maddox was promoted to morning news anchor, while Ms. Edwards was moved to the “day shift.”
Following the investigation, Mr. Maddox continued to make WXYZ a hostile workplace for Ms. Edwards and other women, according to the complaint. He continued to spread defamatory sexual rumors about Ms. Edwards, which the complaint alleges led coworkers — including “high-profile employees and on-air personalities” — to distance themselves from her. These rumors ultimately harmed her professional reputation and career at WXYZ.
“All I ever wanted was for Mr. Maddox to admit the vile, vicious, and nasty rumors were not true,” Ms. Edwards told reporters at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “The rumors continue to be prevalent at WXYZ to this day.”
Ms. Edwards eventually lost faith in the network’s ability to provide a safe work environment and left her job in December 2016. As a result of Mr. Maddox’s behavior, Ms. Edwards left the broadcast journalism industry, and no longer works in that field, according to the complaint.
Mr. Maddox, on the other hand, still works at WXYZ.
“I would like to thank the brave women of the #MeToo movement who have come before me. You have given me the courage to speak out today. I used to think no one would ever believe my story,” Ms. Edwards told reporters. “I am finally at a place where I feel strong enough to stand up. For far too long, women have been discriminated against, abused, and shamed into silence. No more.”
“I will not rest until Ms. Edwards’ rights and reputation are vindicated in federal court,” said Ms. Edwards’ attorney, Hanna, in a press statement.