For the second time in three months, WXYZ benches morning anchor Malcom Maddox amid embarrassing public claims about his past behavior with a female colleague.
Hours after former reporter Tara Edwards alleged a pattern of harassment and management responses she feels were lax, the ABC affiliate says Maddox is sidelined temporarily. Edwards filed a $100-million sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court Tuesday morning.,
"To avoid any further distraction . . . Malcom Maddox will be off the air for the time being," says a statement from the E.W. Scripps Co., Inc., the Cincinnati-based owner.
The company denies the lawsuit claim that Edwards was "retaliated against and constructively discharged from her employment."
Its president and chief executive, Adam Symson, is quoted as saying:
"Scripps is dedicated to maintaining respectful workplace environments. We take very seriously allegations of sexual harassment or any type of workplace harassment. 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."
A company statement says:
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 [Edwards] 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 [December] 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.
Original article, Monday morning:
Tara Edwards, a former WXYZ reporter, is suing the station in federal court. She accuses morning anchor Malcom Maddox of repeatedly coming on to her and asking "to engage in unwanted and unsolicited sexual acts that she found to be deviant and perverse."
Propositions included asking if he could spit in her mouth and urinate on her during sexual activity, the case alleges. She also accuses him of sending a photo of his penis.
Edwards, a 2001 University of Michigan graduate, worked for the station from June 2011 until Dec. 31, 2016. Her 16-page civil rights lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Detroit, says she was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. When she complained, the legal filing says, she was "retaliated against, and constructively discharged from her employment."
Edwards, now living in Texas, seeks $100 million for lost wages and other damages. The defendants are WXYZ and its parent company in Cincinnati, Scripps Media Inc.
"I was so helpless, so hopeless," she says at a Tuesday afternoon news conference with attorney Geoffrey Fieger, as tweeted by Tresa Baldas of the Free Press. "I used to think no one would believe my story."
WXYZ did not immediately return a call from Deadline Detroit Tuesday morning for comment.
Maddox, a former Marine who grew up in Pittsburgh, is married and has three children.
He was placed on administrative leave in December after Rev. W.J. Rideout III, pastor of Our God's People Church in Detroit, publicly accused him of sexual harassment. He returned three weeks later after an internal station investigation.
In 2015, Scripps concluded that his behavior violated company policies and he was suspended.
♦ Her statement: "I am finally in a place where I feel strong enough to stand up," Tara Edwards says.
See full text.
Edwards' suit says she was assigned job duties that required almost daily interaction with Maddox.
"Throughout the entire employment of Ms. Edwards, Mr. Maddox targeted her with a multitude of hostile, offensive, unwelcome and inappropriate actions," the legal filing alleges.
Maddox made multiple efforts to kiss Ms. Edwards on the face and mouth, called her “little girl” and told her that she has not “met anyone like [Mr. Maddox] and that extends further than you can possibly imagine," the suit states.
Mr. Maddox, always through deception and coercion, forced Ms. Edwards to view sexually explicit pictures and videos, including: (a) showing Ms. Edwards a video of his girlfriend “popping grapes” out of her vagina; and (b) showing Ms. Edwards a nude picture of a female colleague she worked with at WXYZ-TV while Ms. Edwards and Mr. Maddox were anchoring the weekend morning news..
Mr. Maddox repeatedly proposed to send Ms. Edwards pictures of his penis so she could “judge on a scale of 1 to 10.” After Plaintiff rejected the propositions to accept delivery of pictures of his penis, Mr. Maddox asked Plaintiff to look at a “work email” on his cell phone that turned out to be a picture of his penis. Ms. Edwards repeatedly rejected Mr. Maddox’s sexual propositions, advances, and other inappropriate sexual behavior.
Mr. Maddox was repeatedly told by Ms. Edwards to stop targeting her with sexually harassing behavior, which included explicitly telling him that his actions “repulsed” her. Mr. Maddox acknowledged his awareness of the fact that Ms. Edwards perceived his conduct as offensive and unwelcome, writing via 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 …"
Nevertheless, Mr. Maddox continued to target Ms. Edwards with harassing behavior after her repeated rejections of his advances and requests for him to stop.
On approximately January 23, 2015, Plaintiff was informed by coworkers that Mr. Maddox had been spreading false and perverse sexual rumors about her “for years.”
Mr. Maddox’s rumors included: (a) telling WXYZ-TV employees that he was having an affair with Ms. Edwards: (b) telling WXYZ-TV employees that his affair with Ms. Edwards included deviant sex acts, including urinating on Ms. Edwards; (c) telling WXYZ-TV employees that he might be the father of Ms. Edwards’s unborn child; (d) telling WXYZ-TV employees that he had sex with Ms. Edwards on a work assignment in West Palm Beach; and telling WXYZ-TV employees that Ms. Edwards was coaching his girlfriend about how to please Mr. Maddox sexually.
On Jan. 28, 2105, Edwards, a University of Michigan graduate, made a formal complaint with the station and provided written materials documenting the sexual harassment.
An investigation produced evidence of Maddox harassing other female employees as well, that included "inappropriate text messages; sexually perverted comments; and showing female employees pictures of his penis," the suit alleges.
WXYZ told Edwards that Maddox would receive an “undisclosed disciplinary action,” was also told to “respect her boundaries” and was asked if she “thinks she can continue to work here," the suit says.
Maddox was subsequently promoted to the morning news anchor position and she was moved to the day shift.
"Defendant’s punishment of Mr. Maddox was ineffective, inadequate, and infringed on the right to work in a workplace free from harassment, discrimination and retaliation owed to Ms. Edward," the suit says.
Edwards objected to the outcome of the investigation and the station's refusal to issue a statement by Maddox to clear her "of the perverse, false and misleading defamatory statements"
Meanwhile, Maddox continued to engage in behavior that contributed to an intolerable workplace for female colleagues, the suit alleges.