CBS settles suit over Dallas TV reporter who lost job to former cheerleader
CBS has reached a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over allegations of age discrimination at its Dallas TV stations.
The case began after CBS-owned KTVT Channel 11 in Dallas refused to hire a popular 42-year-old reporter, Tammy Dombeck Campbell.
The EEOC sued on behalf of Campbell, who met the qualifications listed in a 2014 job posting for a CBS traffic reporter position. Campbell had more than five years of on-air experience and she was knowledgeable about Dallas’ freeways and traffic patterns. Instead, CBS ultimately gave the job to a 24-year-old former NFL cheerleader.
As part of the settlement, CBS’ Dallas stations entered into a consent decree that forbids discrimination or retaliation against people who speak out against any unlawful practices, according to the settlement document. In addition, CBS agreed to pay Campbell $215,000 for “backpay and all other damages,” according to the agreement.
CBS admitted no wrongdoing. The EEOC settlement with the CBS Stations Group of Texas was approved July 12 by U.S. District Chief Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn in Dallas.
“We are pleased this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” KTVT-TV said in a statement.
Michele Gillen was a reporter for CBS’ WFOR-TV Channel 4 in Miami. She sued her former employer, alleging age and sex discrimination.
The settlement comes six months after CBS settled a separate age-discrimination lawsuit in South Florida brought by an award-winning investigative reporter, Michele Gillen. CBS admitted no liability in the agreement. In her court filings, Gillen called CBS a “good ole boys club” that “protects men despite bad behavior.”
The Texas stations are part of New York-based ViacomCBS, which owns 29 television stations, including two Dallas/Fort Worth stations: KTVT Channel 11 and KTXA Channel 21.
Court documents in the case shined a harsh light on CBS. In one March 2014 email, CBS station managers in Dallas debated why the station was stuck in fourth place in the ratings.
“We need to look at everyone on this show, including the anchors,” one station executive wrote, mentioning a veteran female anchor who the manager said was “starting to look outdated and tired.”
Campbell, the traffic reporter, had limited support among the Dallas station leaders but not among CBS executives in New York. One of the station’s criticisms of Campbell was that she once ended a traffic segment by winking toward the camera.
When the traffic reporter position came open in 2014, Campbell applied for the job. She already had been working at CBS’ Channel 11 for nearly two years as a freelance reporter. When Campbell was a regular presence on KTVT’s morning show, the station’s ratings improved, according to the court filings. Before joining CBS, Campbell worked for more than a decade at Dallas’ NBC-owned station.
But instead of hiring Campbell, CBS station executives in Dallas recruited a 28-year-old reporter, Amanda Zitzman, who had worked in Jacksonville, Fla. Zitzman, who lacked the requisite five years of experience, testified that she had never been to Dallas before her CBS job interview.
“She just had a spark to her,” CBS KTVT Channel 11 General Manager Gary Schneider said in a deposition, describing Zitzman.
But Schneider expressed a different sentiment in internal emails. “She’s a little rusty and a little light on energy, but she can get there,” Schneider wrote after Zitzman auditioned for the role. Zitzman was offered the job in late 2014 but eventually declined, saying she wanted to remain in Colorado.
The station twice passed over Campbell for the job, each time offering it to a woman in her 20s who did not have five years of experience or a familiarity with Dallas and its traffic patterns.
After Zitzman, the station looked at three other candidates. Managers offered the job to a then-24-year-old former NFL cheerleader, Chelsey Davis, who had been working as a traffic reporter in Phoenix. CBS hired Davis, who stayed at the station for nearly two years before returning to her native Arizona.
The EEOC sued CBS in 2017, alleging Campbell was passed over due to age discrimination.
“Tammy Campbell was clearly qualified for the position of traffic reporter,” Joel Clark, EEOC senior trial attorney in Dallas, said this week in a statement. “The EEOC argued to the court that CBS [Channel] 11 preferred a younger, less qualified applicant, and that the employer defaulted to unfounded stereotypes about female reporters.”
CBS’ treatment of station employees in Los Angeles also has come under scrutiny. The EEOC settlement follows companywide layoffs and buyouts. In Los Angeles in late May, KCBS-TV Channel 2 on-air personnel Jeff Michael, Garth Kemp, Sharon Tay and Sandra Mitchell, among others, were laid off in a cost-cutting move.
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