Story at a glance

  • A BuzzFeed News investigation reports allegations of racism and sexism at TMZ, the tabloid news website.
  • One employee has filed an official complaint claiming she was fired after complaining to Human Resources.
  • Allegations from current and former employees include verbal abuse, discrimination and a retaliatory environment.

Tabloid news often shows no mercy for the subjects of its sensational stories, and now that the tables are turned as TMZ is getting a taste of its own medicine. 

Dozens of ex-employees and one current employee have come forward with claims of verbal abuse, misogyny and racism, according to BuzzFeed News, which first reported the story. The accusations follow a complaint filed by former employee Bernadette Zilio, who is alleging unlawful employment practices and that she faced retaliation for complaining to Human Resources. 

“Incredibly, Ms. Zilio was terminated within a few days of Warner Bros. and EHM’s Human Resources telling Ms. Zilio that it rejected her complaints about the sexist and misogynist treatment, and instead accepted the excuses her male supervisors gave for the differential treatment,” said the complaint, lodged against TMZ's parent studio and production company as well as TMZ founder Harvey Levin, TooFab Managing Editor Shyam Dodge, and TooFab Senior Producer Ross McDonagh.


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 A TMZ spokesperson told BuzzFeed the claims were a “blatant attempt to use negative publicity and inaccurate claims to force” a monetrary settlement. The allegations reported by BuzzFeed include an "unchecked abuse of power" by the men in charge, including Levin, who reportedly made disparaging comments invoking ableist slurs. 

The complaint cited a 2014 Buzzfeed News story, "The Down And Dirty History Of TMZ," which outlined the history of the tabloid news outlet and its editor. That same year, two other former employees filed lawsuits against TMZ: Ryan Naumann alleged that Levin outed him as being gay to his colleagues, while Taryn Hillin alleged gender discrimination and wrongful termination.

Glassdoor reviews included in the complaint show that not much has changed at the company, which has an overall rating of 2.8 and one review warning "DO NOT WORK HERE."

“Even in this post-#MeToo era, people don’t really care,” a former longtime TMZ employee told BuzzFeed News. “They don’t care about TMZ and the people who work there because they’re seen as ‘less than.’ Even though other entertainment companies and other studios in Hollywood are held to a higher standard, it’s almost like people think if you choose to work at TMZ, then you're choosing to be in a toxic environment.”


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Published on Sep 09, 2020