A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: age discrimination

Newsflash: Youth and Good Looks Work Well on TV.

By LASIS Staff

In 2010, seasoned Southern California weatherman Kyle Hunter got wind of a weather anchor opening at KCBS, a Los Angeles-based television news station. Mr. Hunter, who at 42 had accumulated 22 years of broadcasting experience and has a degree in geosciences and broadcast meteorology, contacted the station’s management about the job immediately. He never heard back.

Instead, KCBS hired Jackie Johnson, a 32-year-old female weather forecaster from its sister station, KCAL. Eager to fill the new void at KCAL, Mr. Hunter then contacted that station, but was told in an e-mail that there was “not an opening for you here now.” He later learned that 25-year-old weather anchor Evelyn Taft snagged the spot.

Mr. Hunter, an award winning, certified meteorologist, claims the stations hired young, attractive females, instead of qualified males like himself, in an effort to hook more male viewers. He is suing CBS Broadcasting in California state court for gender and age discrimination in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), seeking money damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees for the alleged discrimination and his “pain and suffering.”

Well-known discrimination attorney and active feminist Gloria Allred is representing Mr. Hunter in what she says is a “trail blazing lawsuit” because “most victims of gender discrimination are female.” According to the Huffington Post, CBS maintains that the accusations are “frivolous” and predicts “an early dismissal” of the lawsuit.

FEHA prohibits employers from either refusing to hire or firing someone based on gender, but let’s face it, Ms. Taft and Ms. Johnson weren’t hired just because they are female. They were hired because they are attractive, too.

This might not sound fair or just, but television is a visual medium – and television news is a business that relies on viewers and advertisers to make a profit. So, was Mr. Hunter not being hired an exercise of sound business judgment or age and gender discrimination?

The media accurately reported the facts, but didn’t analyze the legal issues. LASIS will.   (more…)

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You’ve Got Great Experience, Sir, But You’re Too Old

By Jaclyn Tyndorf

In these turbulent economic times, securing employment can be a steep and uphill battle for job hunters, who are up against scores of others all vying for the same position. Common sense dictates that candidates with the most amount of relevant experience should be at the top of the list. And as federal law dictates, race, gender and age should be of no consideration at all for jobs in which race, gender and age don’t matter.

But sometimes, of course, these considerations do come into play.  A man isn’t going to get a modeling job to frolic on a beach in a bikini for the 2012 edition of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. A white woman won’t likely be hired to serve as president of an Association for Asian-American males…And then there’s age.  If the applicant for a job has great experience but the job involves manual labor, can age be taken into consideration?

Consider the case of two male electricians, both experienced in their trade. Upon applying for a “journeyman lineman” position their union and before meeting their would-be employer, they were both told, off the bat, that they were just too darn old.

A collective bargaining agreement requires Western Energy Services of Durango, Inc. (WESODI) to follow a union referral process for hiring. In August 2009, when the telecommunications and power line construction company had an available lineman position, it contacted a local union for the name of the next available member with the required skill sets. Eric Camron, then 72, was next in line.

After being told by his union about the job, Mr. Camron went to his local union office where a WESODI employee asked to speak to him on the phone. Mr. Camron was told that the job was “go, go go”, and that he would have difficulty keeping pace with the younger workers. WESODI hired a 24 year-old with less experience, instead.

One month later, the same thing happened to Dennis Thomas, then, 61, and for the same reason. A 28 year-old was hired for that position, again with less experience.

Messrs. Camron and Dennis are suing in New Mexico federal court. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws making it illegal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant on grounds including age, and it is representing the two electricians.

The men want WESODI to stop discriminatory employment practices and to reward them back pay and money damages. While The Durango Herald discussed the men’s lawsuit, the paper didn’t discuss the requirements of proving a case of age discrimination, and whether our electricians will be able to meet these requirements. LASIS will.   (more…)

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Speedo: Unflattering or Discrimination?

By Jessica McElroy

Roy Lester believes in aging gracefully.  And in his opinion, a sexagarian lifeguard wearing itty-bitty man briefs does look not graceful.  Mr. Lester, 61, is a New York bankruptcy attorney who moonlights as a lifeguard at Jones Beach in Nassau County. In 2007, and then again in 2009, he sued the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and History Preservation (NYSOPRHP) in state court claiming age and sex discrimination, arguing that he was forbidden from taking the lifeguard qualification test after he refused to don the required swimwear – either a tight-fitting Speedo, or a looser swimsuit which he felt would slow him down in the water.  According to sources, Mr. Lester claims that the rules requiring specific attire are designed to force out older lifeguards who would rather not show so much skin. He told the New York Daily News, “I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s. But come on. There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.”

Mr. Lester prefers to wear “jammers,” knee length lyrca shorts, which he has worn to past exams in his 40 years as a lifeguard. Mr. Lester claims that the jammers he wore to previous certification tests were not a problem until 2007 when at 57, he showed up to complete his re-hire evaluation.  To qualify as a Long Island lifeguard, candidates must complete a series of timed swim tests and are required to wear either boxers, briefs, or board shorts.  Jammers are not permitted.  Mr. Lester said that neither the board shorts nor the boxers are an option because they would cost him too much time during the test.  So his only other option were the briefs – and he refused to wear the Speedo provided to him.  When he returned in 2008, he was again prohibited from taking the test in jammers.

Mr. Lester initially filed his complaint against NYSOPRHP with the New York State Division of Human Rights in 2007.  The agency dismissed his discrimination claim, finding that there was “no probable cause to believe that… [NYSOPRHP] engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice.” He tried to appeal this decision but his case was dismissed because the statute of limitations expired.  In 2009, Mr. Lester sued again in the Supreme Court of Nassau County claiming age and sex discrimination in prohibiting him from taking the test, but his complaint was dismissed once again.

On August 9, however, a New York appellate court found that the case was improperly dismissed and Mr. Lester will be heading back to court.

While the media focused on how the state’s dress code might have come as an unpleasant surprise to the older lifeguard candidates, they didn’t tell us:  Does being forced to wear the swimsuits required by the state of New York count as discrimination? Let’s find out.   (more…)

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Age Discrimination in TV News Biz: Fogies Fight Back

By Asher Hawkins

Last week Larry Hoff, the 60-year-old former WPIX news anchor best known for zany antics like rappelling down a high-rise dressed as Santa Claus, became the second on-air personality for the New York City-based station to file an age-discrimination suit against the CW Television Network flagship and its owner, the Tribune Company.

The ten-year veteran of the station alleged that his effective replacement, Lisa Mateo, is decades younger and “had little previous reporting experience” when she took his place. According to Mr. Hoff, WPIX violated city and state anti-age discrimination statutes  by launching a “barely concealed effort” to rid the broadcast team of “older members” after real estate billionaire Sam Zell took over the Tribune Company in 2007.

In recent months, the New York Daily News and the Associated Press have both reported on a similar action by sixty-something former WPIX sports anchor Sal Marchiano.

What the articles don’t discuss is whether an age-discrimination suit brought by a TV personality has any chance of success. We will. (more…)

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