Former reporter sues WXYZ for $100M, says Malcom Maddox sexually harassed her for years

- A former journalist is suing WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) and Malcom Maddox, claiming sexual harassment for years that included asking her to engage in 'deviant' sex acts, tricking her into looking at perverse videos and pictures, and asking if he could urinate on her.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger and Michael Hanna of Morgan & Morgan filed the $100 million lawsuit on behalf of former reporter Tara Edwards, who worked at WXYZ from June 2011 to December 2016. During her entire employment, she claims that Maddox targeted her with hostile, offensive, unwelcome, and inappropriate actions, and that the company found proof but never did anything to stop Maddox or protect her.

FOX 2 reached out to the TV station for comment and received a lengthy statement which said that Maddox was still employed but would be off air, for now. Read it in its entirety below.

According to the lawsuit filed in Detroit on Tuesday against Scripps Media, the parent company of WXYZ-TV, Maddox made multiple attempts to kiss her on the face and mouth, sent her messages calling her "little girl" and told her she has not "met anyone like [Mr. Maddox] and that extends further than you can possibly imagine." 

"Imagine how difficult it has been to have felt so helpless, hopeless and voiceless in my own nightmare for so long," Edwards said in a press conference on Tuesday. "I am finally in a place where i feel strong enough to stand up."

She also claims that Maddox frequently asked to engage in unwanted sex acts that she found deviant and perverse. She said she received written messages that included the question if she was  "ready for the physical challenge" of having sex with him. 

Edwards says Maddox asked if he could spit in her mouth and if he could urinate on her during sex.

Edwards also says Maddox deceived her into viewing explicit photos and videos of his girlfriend at the time and a female colleague they worked with at the TV station. She also said he asked to show her what he said was a "work email" but when she looked at the phone, it was a picture of his penis. 

According to the lawsuit, Edwards said she repeatedly told him to stop targeting her and told him that his actions repulsed her. In response, she said, she got this text message: "...I was hoping you would have liked what you saw if you got a good look. I wasn't expecting you to be repulsed..." 

In January 2015, she claims she learned from a coworker that Maddox was responsible for spreading sexual rumors about her for years, including that he was having an affair with her, that they had deviant sex acts together, that he might be the father of her unborn child, and that "Edwards was coaching his girlfriend about how to please Mr. Maddox sexually."

Edwards states that all of the rumors were false and were made to besmirch her good name. 

Later in January 2015, she said she filed a complaint with the station's management, which included written materials documenting the harassment. The station conducted an investigation and determined that other female employees had also been subjected to sexual harassment and misconduct by Maddox, the lawsuit claims. 

Maddox admitted to the misconduct and the company determined "inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to company policy." 

Despite that, a week after Edwards filed her complaint, the company said Maddox would be disciplined but they would not be terminating his employment. Instead, the company promoted Maddox to the morning news anchor position while Edwards was moved to the day shift.

"WZYZ and the powers that be at scripps knew about this harassment - they took no action whatsoever," Fieger said.

READ THE LAWSUIT: Click here to read the lawsuit, as filed in Detroit. WARNING: contains graphic descriptions.

She also claims that Maddox frequently asked to engage in unwanted sex acts that she found deviant and perverse. She said she received written messages that included the question if she was  "ready for the physical challenge" of having sex with him. 

Edwards says Maddox asked if he could spit in her mouth and if he could urinate on her during sex.

Edwards also says Maddox deceived her into viewing explicit photos and videos of his girlfriend at the time and a female colleague they worked with at the TV station. She also said he asked to show her what he said was a "work email" but when she looked at the phone, it was a picture of his penis. 

According to the lawsuit, Edwards said she repeatedly told him to stop targeting her and told him that his actions repulsed her. In response, she said, she got this text message: "...I was hoping you would have liked what you saw if you got a good look. I wasn't expecting you to be repulsed..." 

In January 2015, she claims she learned from a coworker that Maddox was responsible for spreading sexual rumors about her for years, including that he was having an affair with her, that they had deviant sex acts together, that he might be the father of her unborn child, and that "Edwards was coaching his girlfriend about how to please Mr. Maddox sexually."

Edwards states that all of the rumors were false and were made to besmirch her good name. 

Later in January 2015, she said she filed a complaint with the station's management, which included written materials documenting the harassment. The station conducted an investigation and determined that other female employees had also been subjected to sexual harassment and misconduct by Maddox, the lawsuit claims. 

Maddox admitted to the misconduct and the company determined "inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to company policy." 

Despite that, a week after Edwards filed her complaint, the company said Maddox would be disciplined but they would not be terminating his employment. Instead, the company promoted Maddox to the morning news anchor position while Edwards was moved to the day shift.

"WZYZ and the powers that be at Scripps knew about this harassment - they took no action whatsoever," Fieger said.

After the complaint was filed, Edwards says Maddox continued to spread sexual rumors and attack her character at the station. 

The lawsuit claims that the company failed to take corrective actions, provided inadequate punishment for the actions, and protect its employees when she filed her initial complaint and when she reported his repeated actions.

In December 2016, Edwards ended her employment at the station and says, as a result of what happened, she left the journalism industry. 

One year later, in December 2017, Rev. W.J. Rideout of All God's People Church said he learned a WXYZ employee, whom he did not name, went to management to report sexual harassment by Maddox, and that management changed the employee's schedule and continued to advance Maddox's career at Channel 7. 

WXYZ placed Maddox on administrative leave while it investigated sexual harassment claims. On Dec. 22, Maddox was reinstated to his position.

WEB UPDATE: During the WXYZ newscast at 6 p.m. VP and General Manager Mike Murri made the following statement: 

"As the General Manager of this station, I take all allegations of misconduct very seriously as does our entire leadership team at WXYZ. 

“That is why in early 2015 when allegations of Malcom Maddox's work place behavior came to light, WXYZ immediately conducted an investigation as we reported in December. The investigation found the Malcom had engaged in inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to the policies of WXYZ or the parent company, the EW Scripps Company. 

"Malcom was disciplined immediately consistent with company procedures. When the events from the 2015 investigation were raised again in 2017, Scripps itself investigated strongly encouraging employees to share anything they knew about the prior situation or possible problems since then. 

Nothing warranted additional discipline. Scripps then brought in an outside independent investigator earlier this year who also found no evidence of further misconduct.

"And while the conclusion was that there was no additional wrongdoing since Malcom was placed on additional leave in 2015, we do feel that this situation is a distraction to you, our advertisers, our employees and the community. Because of this Malcom Maddox will be off the air for the time being. 

"The station and Scripps intend to maintain workplaces free of employee mistreatment and take very seriously allegations of sexual harassment or any type of workplace harassment. We are committed to be working promptly and vigorously to pursue employee concerns of mistreatment across all of our operations. Thank you for your support of WXYZ. We appreciate you and take great pride in serving you and our community."

STATEMENT FROM WXYZ:

“Scripps is dedicated to maintaining respectful workplace environments. We take very seriously allegations of sexual harassment or any type of workplace harassment,” Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson said. “We are committed to working promptly and vigorously to pursue employee concerns of mistreatment across all of our operations and to take all actions necessary to ensure our workplaces are free from harassment.” 
 
These are the facts of the situation:

•    In early 2015, when allegations about Malcom Maddox’s workplace behavior came to light, WXYZ immediately conducted an investigation. 

•    The investigation found that Maddox had engaged in inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to the policies of WXYZ or its parent company The E.W. Scripps Co. Maddox was disciplined immediately, receiving a two-week unpaid suspension, consistent with company procedures. 

•    The female employee who voiced these concerns continued to work at WXYZ. She was not fired or forced out -- she left the company voluntarily in December 2016 for personal reasons. 

•    When the events from the 2015 investigation were raised again in 2017, Scripps itself investigated, strongly encouraging employees to share anything they knew about the prior situation or possible problems since then. Nothing was reported that warranted additional discipline. 

•    Scripps then brought in an outside independent investigator early this year, who also found no evidence of further misconduct by Maddox after his 2015 discipline. 

The singular focus of WXYZ is to serve the community by providing quality local journalism. To avoid any further distraction from this core mission, Malcom Maddox will be off the air for the time being.
 

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