Hollywood Docket: CBS Sports Ex-Employee Sues for Gender and Racial Discrimination

Plus: a setback for Steven Tyler's lawyer in her fight over the singer's 'American Idol' deal.
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A woman who worked for CBS for 12 years has sued the broadcaster claiming her career hit a glass ceiling and she was fired for speaking out.

In her lawsuit filed Thursday in New York, Lynda Mauze claims she started working at CBS in 2002 and in 2008 was put in charge of commercials and promotions for CBS Sports.

"Soon after her hire by CBS Sports, Ms. Mauze found her career stagnated in comparison to the routine advancement of her white and male colleagues" because she is African American and a woman, states the complaint.

She claims she negotiated unsuccessfully for a promotion in 2012, only for "every single member" of her department to get promoted two months later, and says she has never received a promotion during her entire tenure with CBS.

Her vice president Scott Davis would regularly make misogynistic comments about his ex-wife and "[gave] male subordinates supervisory and decision-making roles regardless of position or experience while he steered women toward clerical and administrative roles," she claims. "Upon his arrival [at CBS], Mr. Davis and met with each member of the Operations team to review their position. Every member except Ms. Mauze, that is."

But much of her complaint concerns her work with CBS Sports Network (CBSSN), the cable network CBS launched in 2011. Mauze claims she worked for the broadcast arm of CBS, not the cable arm, yet nevertheless ended up helping CBSSN executives set up promotions for golf tournaments, NCAA basketball and NFL games and more.

By 2013, "Ms. Mauze's duties had substantially outgrown the original job description and beyond anything her predecessors performed," states the complaint (read here). She says she went to her supervisors and requested a promotion.

"Instead of awarding Ms. Mauze with a title and compensation commensurate with the work that CBS was apparently expecting her to perform, her supervisors trivialized and even mocked her legitimate complaints and began to treat her with disdain and humiliation," claims Mauze, including one instance in which a Human Resources manager allegedly told her to "take the rest of the day off because she was 'getting too emotional.'"

In November 2013 she filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Opportunity commission. Davis cited her for insubordination three months later in connection with a mistake in CBSSN commercials, she says. In April 2014, she was in the middle of helping CBSSN format commercials when two men from building security escorted her from her workplace, she claims.

She says she was fired several days later.

Her complaint states 12 causes of action including violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, and New York City and state labor and human rights laws. She seeks $60 million in damages ($5 million for each cause) in addition to back pay and reinstatement in "a position commensurate with her experience and training." She’s represented by Lisa Alexis Jones.

“This complaint is without merit and we will defend it vigorously," a CBS spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter.

In other entertainment law news

Steven Tyler's lawyer is one step closer to trial for allegedly botching the singer's negotiations to judge on American Idol. In 2013, Dina LaPolt won the dismissal of most of the lawsuit from Kovac Media Group, Tyler's former management company, which claims she torpedoed the deal by disclosed Kovac's negotiation strategy to Idol producers, but a California appeals court revived the lawsuit in February. LaPolt’s lawyers demurred under the argument LaPolt owed the management firm no loyalty or confidentiality and an agreement from a previous lawsuit prevented claims against LaPolt. Kovac countered the release didn't cover her work with Tyler and she owed the management company attorney-client obligations. The judge overruled the demurrer and set the trial (if it happens) for May 24, 2016.

LaPolt lawyer Christine Lepera of Mitchell Silberberg tells THR she will file for summary judgment in early 2016. “Ms. LaPolt is fully confident that Plaintiff cannot prove any of its claims. Notably this is not a ruling on the merits but merely a procedural decision at the pleading stage. Ms. LaPolt intends to challenge Plaintiff at every step of this case,” says Lepera.

—A New York judge has said "I don't" to a woman's copyright infringement claim over FYI's reality hit Married at First Sight. Yaina Williams alleged an executive from Lifetime (which shares FYI's parent A&E; the three are defendants) downloaded her copyrighted treatment for a show called Married at 1st Sight from the website TV Writers Vault and developed the FYI series from it. In dismissing the case, Judge P. Kevin Castel agreed with A&E, represented by Sidley Austin's Brad Ellis, the shared elements of Married and Williams' idea represent "nothing but 'common stock ideas'" not protectable by copyright (read the ruling).

—A California judge recently dismissed Entertainment Studios and the National Association of African-American Owned Media's lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner, Al Sharpton, the NAACP and other defendants for discriminatory business practices. The lawsuit for $20 billion accused Comcast and Time Warner of not spending on diverse programming and making deals with Sharpton and diversity advocacy groups to cover up efforts to "whitewash." Judge Terry Hatter said the allegations "failed to allege any plausible claim for relief." Now the judge is giving the plaintiffs until Sept. 21 to file an amended complaint.

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears won a patent lawsuit from a big-screen maker claiming the singers were liable for using the screens in concert tours without licenses. Now they will receive $755,925.86 in lawyers' fees and expenses from Large Audience Display Systems for a "frivolous" proceeding in which the plaintiff "violated clear, important canons of professionalism," writes California judge Manuel Real (read the ruling). The company "intends to vigorously appeal Judge Real's short, flawed, opinion granting attorneys' fees," attorney Michael Burk tells THR.

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