Friday, July 16, 2010

Judge drops most bias claims against KPIX

A federal judge has thrown out most of a discrimination lawsuit that John Lobertini and Bill Schechner had filed against CBS and KPIX-TV over their firings in 2008.

Lobertini (left) and Schechner (right) argued they were victims of age and sex discrimination because they part of a round of layoffs involving five on-air employees who were all older men. At the time, Lobertini was 47 and Schechner was 66.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, in an 18-page order released Wednesday (download), dismissed four of the plaintiffs' five claims, finding their evidence was "insufficient."

Schechner claimed that a pattern of discrimination against older reporters led to their firings. He said that in 2005, prior to his firing, KPIX news director Dan Rosenheim replaced him with a 39-year-old, calling Schechner's performance "lackluster."

"Despite plaintiffs' protestations to the contrary, the word 'lackluster' is not generally used as a synonym for 'old,'" she wrote. "Rather, it means “1. lacking brilliance, radiance, liveliness, etc; dull or vapid. 2. a lack of brilliance or vitality," she wrote, quoting from a dictionary.

Attorneys for Lobertini and Schechner also hired a statistical expert who concluded, "If age were not a factor in the selection of the five (5) individuals to be laid off, then there is only a 1.58% probability (or a 1 in 63 chance) that the mean age of the five (5) laid off individuals would be as great as it was ...”

Later in her order, the judge wrote, "Plaintiffs have failed to present any other evidence that independently or viewed in tandem with the statistical analysis, could give rise to an inference of age discrimination."

The judge dismissed four claims by the reporters — age discrimination, gender discrimination, punitive damages and lost wages — but left open the door for arguments on the issue of "disparate impact." The argument is that while it can't be proven that KPIX intended to discriminate, its actions nonetheless harmed employees based on their race or sex. The judge gave both sides 30 days to file briefs on that issue. (The case number is C 08-05049 MHP.)

Editor's note: An earlier version of this posting didn't mention the "disparate impact" claim that remains open.

Update, Monday, July 19, 7 p.m.: Chronicle: Ex-KPIX reporters lose ruling in age-bias suit

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder how Bob MacKenzie keeps his job.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with lackluster if what you're covering is lackluster. Hyping the news is what they want. Good for Schechner for still getting up everyday and still wanting to cover dull events. Might want to take that brand somewhere that appreciates us slow guys.

Anonymous said...

KPIX gets rid of it's most seasoned street reporters and keeps people with few ties or history in Northern California. Anybody notice all the high priced anchors; most of them don't anchor more than one show. And, they haven't been touched. The people who survived at KPIX worked with the News Director at KRON. Or they were his drinking buddies from KRON. Schechner is brilliant and Lobertini was a star. I read back in March that he--Lobertini-- was nominated for the AP Reporter of the Year award while working for the crappy FOX station in Sacramento. Cream always rises to the top. Good Luck guys.

Anonymous said...

We've come a long way, baby, if they're arguing that men were discriminated against in TV news because of their age.

Anonymous said...

its crazy to see the hoops managers have to jump through in order to run their shops ... no job in tv is permanent ...

Anonymous said...

Experience, intelligence, excellent presentation skills don't mean anything. It's all about hiring a pretty looking kid who can read a teleprompter and won't ask for much money.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It's a young person's business.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Schnectner and Lobertini were a couple of very talented reporters. KPIX should be ashamed at how they treated them and other others laid off. I also recall that Barbara Rodgers left Channel 5 at about the same time. If she was let go, then that blows the theory about gender discrimination (though not age bias).

Anonymous said...

These guys are probably liberals (aren't most journalists) who thought they could cash in like other liberals before them. But they ran into a stark reality: The liberal courts believe that only older women can be victims of age and gender discrimination, not older men.

Cliff R said...

Is the Press Club webmaster joking when he emphasizes "disparate impact"? I realize you're on the side of these two reporters, but you should be honest. Even if these reporters prevail on their "disparate impact" claim, the most they would get are actual damages. I can't imagine actual damages being more than a five-digit number. It won't cover their attorney fees. The judge has taken all of the big prizes off the table. There won't be a multi-million dollar payout.

Anonymous said...

I think a former KNTV anchor, Brad Hicks, sued for about the same thing (age discriimination) and lost. He was kind of a Ted Baxter-type that Bob Goldberger liked. But the NBC management cringed when they saw him on air. Hicks was replaced by TJ Holmes, who is now at CNN.

Anonymous said...

"Disparte impact" is a strong element of the case. The attorney and his statistician won a similar case on behalf of the late Steve Davis against KGO some years ago. The numbers don't lie.

"Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet."