5:10pm PT by Eriq Gardner
WME Sued for Age Discrimination by Former Assistant
Sean Bryan, who worked for four years as an assistant at William Morris Endeavor, has filed a lawsuit against the talent agency for alleged harassment and discrimination. He says he was denied an opportunity to enter WME's "agent trainee" program on account of his age.
In the complaint, filed June 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Bryan says he was hired by the William Morris Agency in 2008, a year before it merged with Endeavor. At WME, Bryan, now 44, states that his superiors routinely made comments about him being older than a typical agency assistant, such as "Who's the old guy at the desk?" "What's up, Old Timer," "Haven't you been here for 100 years?" and "You are going to have a hard time here because of your age and hair color."
After receiving favorable performance reviews for his work in the nonscripted TV department, Bryan says he was denied the opportunity to become an agent trainee, and that co-defendant Carole Katz, WME's head of human resources, told him that he "did not fit the Endeavor model."
Mark Baute, lead attorney for WME in the dispute, disputes the allegations. "Mr. Bryan's age discrimination claim against WME is utterly meritless, and WME will not have any difficulty defending itself on the merits in a courtroom setting," Baute tells THR. "Mr. Bryan had a chronic tardiness and absenteeism problem, which was well documented, and he was not discriminated against in any way, shape or form. Any further comment would unduly dignify a frivolous lawsuit that should never have been filed."
The plaintiff filed his claim after being issued a "right-to-sue" notice from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. There, he had claimed the William Morris-Endeavor merger precipitated type-casting agency-wide.
"Curiously, some top executives continue to refer to the company as 'Endeavor' despite the merger, distinguishing its model of employment practices from that of the prior William Morris Agency, the company that originally hired Mr. Bryan," states the DFEH complaint. "After the merger, Mr. Bryan was terminated for the very reasons 'Endeavor,' 'a new company,' does not hire people like Mr. Bryan in the first place."
His DFEH complaint alleges that of the hundreds of agents' assistants at WME, only a handful are over 40.
Bryan also lobbed a charge of sexual orientation discrimination in the DFEH complaint, but that claim didn't carry forward to his lawsuit. He is represented by attorneys Boris Koron and Daniel Podolsky. The plaintiff is seeking lost income, benefits and medical expenses as well as general damages for emotional distress and mental suffering.