TV Reporter Wins Discrimination Suit

On March 11, a federal jury awarded $2.1 million to a TV reporter who claimed the CBS affiliate for which she worked, WRBL/Channel 3 in Columbus, discriminated against her as a result of her pregnancy.

One would think a major media company losing its shirt to an aggrieved young reporter would be all over the mainstream news. It wasn't.

"I believe the public has a right to know about a major media company so blatantly and recklessly discriminating against a pregnant woman, in violation of federal laws," Maxine Hardy, one of the attorneys for reporter Melissa Schultz Miller, wrote in an e-mail to CL. "The media, apparently, would prefer the public not know."

WRBL hired Miller in July 2001 as a producer. Miller claimed that the following spring, she told her boss she was pregnant. According to Hardy, the supervisor told Miller the pregnancy would ruin her career and that she should consider an abortion. Miller said that after she brought her complaints up the station's chain of command, she was switched to the Sunday night timeslot - the TV equivalent of the graveyard shift.

Poised to return from maternity leave, Miller learned she would be "demoted," as her lawsuit put it, to morning show producer and scheduled to work "unfavorable hours." She quit instead, and filed her lawsuit in November 2003.

Although the jury awarded Miller $2.1 million, the judge was forced to lower the award to $300,000, thanks to a federal law that caps sex discrimination awards at that amount.

Media General is a Richmond, Va.-based corporation that owns about 50 TV stations and newspapers throughout the Southeast. Its attorney in the Miller case, King Tower, referred comment to a company spokeswoman, who could not be reached.??

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