Female crime reporter struggles for equal pay

Diversity (or, the lack of it) in the newsroom has been a matter of scholarly debates. However, where there is, how are the corporates faring? In the latest examination, a television station fails the test.

Paul Monies writes for Business Writer U.S. sues KOKH-25, alleges bias in reporter race, gender The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit in federal court Wednesday against local television station KOKH-25, alleging racial and gender discrimination against one of its on-air reporters.

The lawsuit accuses KOKH LLC and parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. of paying crime reporter Phyllis Williams a lower salary than comparable white female reporters and male reporters of all races.

Williams, who is black, has worked at the Fox affiliate since it began news operations in 1996.

The lawsuit also alleges Williams was not offered an employment contract until several months after she filed a discrimination charge with the commission in 2005. Rebecca Stith, a senior trial attorney in the commission’s St. Louis, Mo., office, said other reporters at KOKH routinely were offered employment contracts.

“Unlike her peers, she did not have a contract and was not offered one until some time after the complaint in 2005,” Stith said. “She was certainly paid less given her longevity, experience and reputation in the community.”

Barry Faber, vice president and general counsel for Baltimore-based Sinclair, said the company had not yet seen the lawsuit. Faber said based on his knowledge of the facts, the allegations are “completely baseless.”

“We intend to fight the lawsuit vigorously,” Faber said.

The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages. The commission also wants an order to prevent Sinclair and KOKH from engaging in future discrimination. A lawsuit was filed only after it exhausted settlement talks, the commission said.

“News organizations must be mindful to provide equal opportunities to women and people of color, who have traditionally been the victims of job discrimination,” Jean Kamp, acting regional director of the commission’s St. Louis office, said in a statement. “In this case, the reporter received a double dose of discrimination, based on race and sex, simply for being a black woman.”

Faber said Williams is still an employee of KOKH and Sinclair.