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WPHL-TV in Philadelphia has been hit with an age discrimination suit by a former on-air weatherman who says he was ousted at the age of 51 and replaced with someone less than half his age because the station’s management and the WB Network wanted to attract younger viewers. Attorney Alan B. Epstein of Spector Gadon & Rosen filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Craig Weber of Merchantville, N.J., a meteorologist whose 25-year career in television included a stint at the Weather Channel in Atlanta. Named as defendants in the suit are WPHL-TV Inc.; its parent company, Tribune Co.; its general manager, Leslie Glenn; and the WB Network’s parent company, Time Warner Inc. According to the suit, Weber was hired in October 1996 as the weekend meteorologist and was responsible for “fill-in” work during the week whenever the weekday weather anchorman was absent. Weber claims that while younger on-air personalities were given contracts, he was never afforded that protection during his entire tenure. In 1997, the suit says, the station’s 50-year-old chief meteorologist was fired, but Weber was not even considered to fill the position. Instead, the suit says, the post went to a 24-year-old with fewer credentials and less experience. Weber claims his weekend work was “excellent” and that the station’s weekend news programs had higher ratings than it enjoyed for its weekday broadcasts. In July 1999, the suit says, the younger meteorologist left the station and Weber was asked to take on both the weekend and weekday broadcasts. Weber says he worked 114 straight days and that ratings “increased sharply.” But when Weber asked station management why he had not been offered a permanent assignment to the weekday position, he claims he was told that his age was a factor in the decision. Weber claims he was ultimately offered the post of chief meteorologist only after the station called off its search for another candidate. But he claims the job came with a “substantially lower salary” than the station had paid to his younger predecessor. In April 2000, the suit says, the station’s 56-year-old general manager was replaced by Glenn, who was “substantially younger.” Just one month later, Weber says he was told that the station had hired a “new kid” to take over the weekday weather broadcasts. And two weeks after that, the suit says, Weber was told that his last day of work would be June 16, 2000, and that his weekend broadcasts would be taken over by a 24-year-old with “no major-market experience.” Epstein contends in the suit that Weber’s firing was “part of a pattern and practice of WPHL and Tribune to demote and discharge older employees and promote and replace them with substantially younger employees.” The station’s actions, Epstein said, “were taken to conform with Time Warner’s objectives to attract a younger viewing audience.” The station’s overall goal, he said, was to support the WB Network’s “youth-oriented programming.” The suit cites claims under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. A spokeswoman for WPHL said the station was aware of Weber’s suit, but that she could not comment on it. The suit, Weber v. WPHL-TV Inc., et al., 01-cv-4267, has been assigned to federal Judge Herbert J. Hutton.

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