A judge in Miami recently gave the go-ahead for a class-action labor law and sex and age discrimination lawsuit against CBS Broadcasting, Inc. If a jury rules against the company, the ruling “could have a nationwide impact on CBS’s 29 owned-and-operated television stations, known as CBS Television Stations, Inc.”
What happened, though? What was the case filed in the first place? For starters, the suit was filed by former WFOR-CBS4 Miami freelance reporter, Silva Harapetian (her legal name is Harapeti). In the suit, she alleges “that WFOR routinely worked her 50 to 60 hours a week when she was a freelance reporter and producer over a seven-year period.” She wasn’t the only over-worked employee, though. According to the suit, “she and other similarly situated individuals allegedly were paid no overtime, no vacation pay, allowed no sick leave pay and received no health care benefits.”
Harapetian argues she “was instructed to list 8 hours on her timesheet each day, even if she worked many more, which she says she did routinely.” To make matters worse, during a hearing held earlier this year, Carl Larson, the WFOR comptroller, “could not dispute that he directed Harapetian to submit inaccurate timesheets, misrepresenting her actual hours.” CBS operations executive, Joel Goldberg, chimed in during the hearing and said “that the company’s stations were in step with per diem procedures that corporate executives were aware of.” Another CBS labor relations executive testified “that for the administrative convenience, per diem employees were instructed to list 8 hours on their timesheets each day.” According to the suit, “Harapetian was paid $210 a day, whether she worked eight hours or twenty.”
Additionally, the suit notes that Harapetian “was repeatedly promised a full-time job with benefits when one became available.” However, as openings became available, she was never offered on and she remained per diem. Eventually, she confronted News Director Liz Roldan, who told her a “job was not available to her.” To make matters worse, she was allegedly “denied even a modest request for an increase in her per diem pay rate.” Over time, she was “forced to turn in her leased car and had to buy a motor scooter to ride to and from the television station,” according to the suit. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Roldan ordered Harapetian to “give up her sideline work in multi-media education.” He allegedly said, “Commit to work at CBS, and figure out where your priorities are.”
On top of all of that, Harapetian alleges “she was paid less than male and younger female reporters,” which is why she filed the age and sex discrimination complaint.
So far CBS has called the lawsuit baseless and claims Harapetian’s complaint wasn’t filed in a timely basis and that she “failed to provide evidence supporting her allegations.”
It’s worth noting that the suit itself is unprecedented because Magistrate Judge Lauren Lewis’s ruling “permits employees and former employees of CBS’s 29 company-owned stations to join in.”
This isn’t the first time CBS has been sued for alleged gender discrimination. Back in 2019, an associate producer for ‘60 minutes’ sued the station.