Jim Porter: CBS sued for hiring young attractive women
California has hundreds of laws preventing discrimination. One of those is the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) which prohibits employment and housing discrimination.
Other laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender and age. Which brings us to today’s case.
YOUNG ATTRACTIVE FEMALES
Kyle Hunter is an experienced TV weatherman – 23 years in the business having won several prestigious awards and being certified by the American Metrological Society.
He applied for a prime-time weather broadcasting slot at KCBS in L.A., but the job was given to Jackie Johnson, a “young attractive female” according to Hunter’s lawsuit. He then applied for the weather anchor position vacated by Johnson, but that was given to Evelyn Taft who was “cut from the same blond, attractive, buxom mold,” as Hunter put it.
Taft had less than three years of experience and was not certified by the AMS and had not won any broadcast awards. Per Hunter.
WEATHER NEWSMAN V. CBS BROADCASTING
Hunter sued CBS for violation of FEHA and California’s gender and age discrimination laws alleging that “age and gender were key considerations in CBS’s hiring decisions.”
He was told by other CBS employees that CBS had been looking to hire an attractive female weather anchor.
One of Hunter’s attorneys is Gloria Allred who has a knack for taking on celebrity cases involving maximum camera exposure.
CBS’s key testimony came from Scott Diener, director of hiring. He explained that the number one reason why people watch local news is to obtain information about the weather. Weather anchors are “local celebrities” who have a significant effect on newscast ratings.
Diener told the court that Hunter was not hired because he was not “polished” and his “on-air persona was hokey and over the top.”
Diener testified that of CBS’s five weather anchors on staff, three were males over the age of 40. There goes Hunter’s case.
CBS claimed its decision to hire weather anchors is an act in furtherance of free speech. Hiring weather anchors is essentially a casting decision, a form of First Amendment expression. Interesting.
Hunter countered that being able to discriminate against older male broadcasters in favor of pretty young females would be “tantamount to affording news broadcasters with immunity from anti-discrimination laws.”
The trial court ruled for Hunter. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding CBS’s hiring decisions were in connection with issues of public interest and therefore free speech protected by the First Amendment. I did not expect that outcome, especially in California.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.portersimon.com.
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