CNN Sued by Former Producer For Race and Age Discrimination

CNN Building - P 2014
AP Images

CNN Building - P 2014

Stanley Wilson, who worked for CNN as a news producer for 17 years before being dismissed, filed a lawsuit on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court against his former employer, Turner Broadcasting and CNN bureau chief Peter Janos seeking at least $5 million.

Wilson, 51, is African-American, and charges in the suit that he was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated — and in the process was defamed and faced retaliation.

The lawsuit was filed the same day that CNN parent Turner Broadcasting announced that it was slashing its staff by 10 percent.

Wilson says in the suit he was hired in 1996 and for the last 14 years was a news producer for CNN. There he covered a range of events, including the 2012 election, riots, hijackings, tornadoes in the Midwest, cop killer Christopher Dorner, mass shootings, wildfires in seven western states and more. According to the suit, he also worked on documentaries about Michael Jackson, Rodney King, and worked with Soledad O’Brien as a producer on Black in America, a 10-hour multi-platform series about America since the death of Martin Luther King.

Wilson says in the suit that he received more than two dozen awards for his reporting.

Read more CNN Parent Turner Broadcasting Slashes 10 Percent of Staff

In 2000, Wilson says he was the first African-American appointed a producer based in Los Angeles, and remained the only African-American producer in the western region as of his termination. He was last promoted in 2003.

According to the suit, Wilson’s problems began when Janos was appointed bureau chief of the western region in 2004 and became his supervisor.

Since Janos arrived, Wilson says he applied for a number of positions but was always turned down. He alleges that Janos defamed him by repeatedly giving him bad reviews.

Beginning in 2007, Wilson complained about his treatment to the human resources department of CNN/Turner. He says he told them Janos was “an important actor in the wholesale discrimination against African-American men in the hiring and promotion of staff producers and television photographers in Los Angeles.”

Wilson says his age and compensation were also increasingly viewed as “a liability.”

Beginning in 2010, Wilson says his wife undertook “expensive fertility treatments” that were charged to his employer. When his wife gave birth to twins in Sept. 2013, Wilson took a five week paternity leave.

Shortly before he took his leave, Wilson says a younger, less experienced Caucasian man was promoted into his job, and after that got all of the most important assignments and travel. Wilson says he was relegated to “in-house packaging and fill-in work on the assignment desk.”

In 2013, Wilson was told he needed to “step up his work load. He says Janos warned him he needed to “keep up” with the younger man, which he says “reeked of age discrimination.”

In Jan. 2014, Wilson covered a press conference when Lee Baca resigned as L.A. Country Sheriff. The copy he wrote was edited, and he was told his work was too similar to another story. CNN killed his story.

He says Janos would not listen to his side of the story and instead told Wilson “there were going to be consequences.” On Jan. 28, Wilson was terminated.

Wilson charges that the real reasons behind his firing were his age, race, ancestry, complaints about discrimination in the work place and his close association with his wife, whose difficulty having a child he says is a disability.

Wilson says he was not even given the customary separation pay of two weeks for each year he worked for the company.

Since being fired, Wilson says he hasn’t been able to get another job. He says that is because Janos or “his agents” have put out false statements accusing Wilson of dishonesty in his profession.

As a result, Wilson says he has suffered severe and profound pain and emotional distress, anxiety, and depression.

Wilson says because the acts against him were carried out by managers, he should also receive punitive damages.

A spokesperson for CNN and Turner said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined comment.