August 15, 2012 4:17pm PT by Eriq Gardner
CBS Defeats Defamation Lawsuit Brought By 'Bold and the Beautiful' Hairstylist
CBS Television, Bell-Phillip Television Productions and Bold and the Beautiful senior supervisors have prevailed over a hairstylist on the soap who claimed he was defamed in a memo that criticized his work habits.
Carlos Pelz brought the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in March 2011, alleging the quality of his coiffure expertise was evidenced by Emmy wins in 2009 and 2010 but that his supervisors had the audacity in an internal memo to say that Pelz was lazy, ambivalent, produced poor-quality work, was incompetent and was unfit to continue as "key" hairstylist for the show.
In a ruling this week, a Los Angeles judge dismissed the claims on summary judgment.
The defendants responded to Pelz's lawsuit by arguing that the alleged defamatory statements were privileged communications under a portion of California Civil Code (§47c) that makes allowances for job performance critiques in an employment context so long as the communication is "without malice."
The supervisors of the long-running soap were said to have qualified for such privilege and also believed the truth of their statements.
Pelz countered that the supervisors/co-defendants Ron Weaver and Jody Lawrence-Miller had offered shifting statements about the discussions that led to the critique. The plaintiff also argued that one possible motivation for Weaver was that he was attempting to remove him from the job to avoid the expense of having to pay him during a hiatus for Bold and the Beautiful.
On the latter point, the judge ruled that Pelz failed to present evidence of such a charge. As to the issue of truthfulness, the judge said what matters most is that Pelz failed to show that Weaver and Lawrence-Miller intentionally misrepresented statements or that any of the comments were false, exculpatory statements.
In the opinion, the judge added, "Although Plaintiff presents evidence that multiple other employees thought highly of Plaintiff, this evidence does not undercut the testimony showing that Lawrence-Weaver was reasonable in relying on other sources of evidence showing that Plaintiff's job performance was subpar."
So Jeremiah Reynolds, the Kinsella Weitzman attorney, and Keri Campbell, a lawyer at Kelley Drye, representing the defendants, succeeded in getting the lawsuit cut from CBS' hairs.
"This is a victory for California employers, who should not be deterred by the threat of defamation lawsuits from criticizing employees’ performance if they have a reasonable basis for doing so," Reynolds says.