A fired CNN producer is suing his former employer for wrongful termination on the grounds of age and race discrimination.
Stanley Wilson, 51, is African- and Latino-American. He was terminated in January when three sentences of a story he wrote apparently were very similar to another outlet’s copy. The copy editor who reviewed the story reported the incident to Peter Janos, Vice President and Bureau Chief of the Western region, who Wilson says used the charges as an excuse to fire him. According to Wilson, the results of a plagiarism review of his work were never released.
The lawsuit claims that Janos “never wanted him [Wilson] at the bureau” because of his “race, color and ancestry.” According to Wilson, 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.”
Despite applying for a dozen job openings since he began work at CNN in 1996, Wilson was promoted only once, before. According to the lawsuit, Wilson made human resources complaints every year between 2007 and 2010 because African-American men were not receiving promotions except in the select cities of Atlanta, D.C. and New York.
The lawsuit alleges that at the time of his termination, Wilson was the only black CNN producer in the Western region, and even saw a young, white producer promoted ahead of him.
Although Wilson had covered many high-profile crises such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, he says that the newer employee was given the best assignments while Wilson was “frequently relegated to in-house packaging and fill-in work on the Assignment Desk.”
Before his termination, Wilson also raised concerns that his age and compensation were “increasingly being viewed as a liability” by his bosses.
Although most U.S. employment is “at will” — meaning that employers are free to fire employees at any time, firings for either discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for reports of violations are covered by wrongful termination law. Wrongful termination lawsuits have increased in frequency by approximately 260% in the past two decades.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal age discrimination law protects all workers over 40 years of age regarding age-related harassment, job assignments, promotions and firing.
Wilson is seeking a minimum of $5 million in damages.