Emmy award-winning investigative journalist Michele Gillen has launched a federal lawsuit against her former employer, CBS Television Stations Inc., WFOR-TV, WBFS-TV, and CBS Broadcasting Inc., claiming she was fired because of her age and sex.
According to the lawsuit, a “culture of toxic misogyny” has been “thriving” at the news network, which terminated Gillen’s contract with CBS4 Miami in 2016, breaking their 19-year ties.
Gillen claimed that her news beats and projects were “ignored or taken from her to be worked on by younger reporters or male reporters,” an issue she allegedly reported to the company’s human resources office in Miami.
According to the complaint, HR representatives told Gillen, “We must rely on the man upstairs” (God), and that “bad karma will catch up with the people doing this.”
CBS allegedly let Gillen go because her salary didn’t match her output, but Gillen’s attorney, Louise R. Caro of Napoli Shkolnik in Miami, said the firing was a pretext for age and gender discrimination.
“They just wanted her out,” Caro said. “We are now opening the lid on what’s really been going on.”
CBS has not yet responded to requests for comment, but has denied Gillen’s allegations in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, which said that the station was “confident that Michele Gillen was treated fairly when she worked for WFOR-TV, and station management’s decision to not renew her contract in 2016 was justified.”
Read the full complaint:
Gillen also singled out CBS4 colleague Jim DeFede, accusing him of “espousing false and humiliating accusations” toward her and of “open disparagement of women in general.”
The complaint said that in a meeting, DeFede “disdainfully declared he was done trying to figure out which of his stories will appeal and attract ‘women who are menstruating and watching Blue Bloods.’ ”
DeFede did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
According to Caro, Gillen wasn’t the only victim of the ” ‘good ole boy’s club’ culture” described in the complaint.
“ Her situation is especially unique in that when she saw this happening to women over time she was an advocate for them, so I think it was even more of a shock when they then had the audacity to do it to her,” Caro said. “We’re getting a lot of contact from people who are saying, ‘Yes, yes, this is how it was.’ ”
The lawsuit comes weeks after CBS chief Leslie Moonves left his post amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Caro said the case is bolstered by Gillen’s documentation of conversations and emails throughout the years.
“She’s an investigative reporter. She’s the recipient of 39 Emmys. She knows what she’s doing,” he said.
Caro called the alleged behavior a systemic and cultural problem.
“Even when you put other people in these positions, the same behavior is allowed,” Caro said. “That’s how we know it’s systemic.”