LEGAL BRIEF: Channel 25 (Oklahoma) Settles EEOC Race and Sex Bias Suit
OKLAHOMA CITY – KOKH-TV (Fox 25) in Oklahoma City will pay $45,000 and additional consideration to a veteran African-American TV news reporter to settle a race and sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on March 3rd. The settlement terms are set forth in a proposed Consent Decree, approval of which is pending before the Court.
The EEOC charged that Phyllis Williams’ employers, KOKH and its parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, paid her lower wages than comparable white female reporters and male reporters of all races, and subjected her to unequal terms and conditions of employment until August 2007, when she signed an employment contract for a higher salary. Sinclair and KOKH had routinely offered employment contracts to other reporters at Channel 25. Williams has reported for Fox 25 since 1996.
Fox Broadcasting Company, which has an affiliate agreement allowing the station to use the Fox name, did not employ Williams and was not a party to the lawsuit.
Race and sex discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC, et al. v. KOKH, et al., Case No. 5:07-cv-01043-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
After the EEOC filed its charges, Williams intervened in the EEOC’s suit and added a retaliation claim under a separate civil rights statute known as Section 1981, which prohibits race discrimination and retaliation for reporting the same. KOKH and Sinclair agreed to resolve her Section 1981 claim in a private settlement for consideration in addition to the $45,000 being paid to resolve the Title VII claim.
In addition to monetary payment, during the three-year term of the consent decree KOKH and Sinclair must post an anti-discrimination notice, disseminate an anti-discrimination policy, and provide live training on preventing sex and race discrimination on at least an annual basis to all KOKH employees.
“This decree will remind KOKH Channel 25, Sinclair and all news organizations to treat their employees equally as required by law, including women and people of color, who traditionally have been the victims of job discrimination,” said Barbara Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma. “The notice posting and training required by the consent decree will go far in educating the station’s managers on their employees’ right to work in an environment free of race and sex discrimination.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.