A clear message has been sent to the highest level of corporate corridors with the departure of Les Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation, and Jeff Fager, Executive Producer of 60 Minutes and former Chairman of CBS News.
Once again, we have seen men in powerful positions take center stage in the media this week, with the piercing eye of public scrutiny rightly raising questions over the treatment of women in the workplace and allegations of an insidious role of bullying, intimidation and harassment.
Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, however believes this is just a small window into a ‘boys club’ culture that been thriving well beyond CBS’s power centers in Los Angeles and New York City. Even in the era of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, the CBS-owned and operated station WFOR-TV in Miami, management and human resources are entrenched in this culture. This hostile environment fosters misogyny, places men on a pedestal, elevates and protects men despite bad behavior, and emboldens and protects bullies, who often help push women out. Many women endure the abuse as a cost of the pursuit of a successful career in journalism. Women who dare to report this type of abuse and discrimination, even when following CBS reporting policies, pay the ultimate price.
Michele Gillen is a 39 time Emmy Award winning investigative reporter, having accumulated over twenty-five Emmy awards for her insightful and in-depth investigative reporting during her tenure at this Miami station. As Chief Investigative Reporter she received consistent accolades from peers and the community and has been consistently credited with effectuating positive changes to public policy.
As she says, “For 19 years I had the honor of working as an investigative reporter at the CBS owned and operated station WFOR-TV in Miami, Florida. This is a community that I dearly love and call home. For most of those years and until my last day at the station, I wore the mantel of the Chief Investigative Reporter. That meant a lot to me. Especially as an investigative journalist who happens to be a woman.”
After following company protocols and reporting intimidation and harassment to Human Resources in Miami, Ms. Gillen was told “we must rely on the man upstairs” (God), and that “bad karma will catch up with the people doing this.”
After documenting and reporting ongoing outrageous bullying behavior to HR at CBS headquarters, Ms. Gillen was told by a senior HR manager that “tempers flare” and “favoritism is not illegal.” CBS then retaliated by putting her on a punitive, humiliating quota for her on-air investigative work, while simultaneously leaving the very managers whom Ms. Gillen had repeatedly reported as abusive in charge as gate-keepers, blocking her access to air time. CBS Management even went so far as to giving even more on-air time to her male harasser, who boldly declared in a staff meeting that he was done trying to figure out which of his stories will appeal and attract “women who are menstruating and watching Blue Bloods.”
Ms. Gillen noted, “The fear and intimidation of employees is poisonous and pervasive, part of an institutionalized pattern, and has gone on for too long. Protecting and promoting bullies and ‘bad boy behavior’ while destroying careers and lives must stop now. The stories I was committed to doing for 19 years at WFOR-TV were about exposing truth, finding transparency amid systemic lies, and bringing voice to those who were not listened to. At the heart of this lawsuit are those very issues and more.”
In late 2016 Michele Gillen was ‘shown the door’ while five of her investigative reports were nominated for Emmys, and shortly thereafter WFOR-TV aired her story, “The Human and Financial cost of Florida’s Heroin Epidemic” with her voice dubbed out and replaced by a younger female reporter.
Ms. Gillen is now bringing a lawsuit against CBS alleging age and gender discrimination, and retaliation under the civil rights act. She shares, “Every case of abuse is personal. In my case, it was a weapon to break down my will to continue in the face of adversity. CBS condoned these tactics in normal daily interaction toward me and other highly qualified journalists, to intimidate, marginalize, and ultimately exclude them. While it is difficult to publicly share the extent of what I endured in the toxic, misogynistic culture at WFOR-TV, keeping secret the company’s approved behavior and treatment of me and other female employees is wrong. Nothing will change if it isn’t brought to light.”
Ms. Gillen is represented by Marie Napoli, Esq. and Louise Caro, Esq. of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. The case is Gillen v. CBS and the case number is 1:18-cv-23788.