A California state judge has declared a mistrial in an age discrimination lawsuit against NBC. A former journalist with NBC, Frank Snepp, sued NBCUniversal Media and KNBC-TV last year, claiming that he was abruptly fired in 2012 after complaining about age discrimination. The trial began November 23 and lasted until December 18, when the case went to the jury. The jury deliberated for three days but was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.
Snepp was hired in 2006. He is a former CIA operative, and he did investigative reporting for KNBC. He won three Emmys, a Peabody Award, and a Los Angeles Press Club Award as a result of his investigative reporting.
Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2009. Snepp claims that after it was acquired, the philosophy of the TV station changed. He alleges that it tried to appeal to a more youthful audience, and attempted to turn around its declining ratings. Around the same time, reporters were given new job titles and were called “content producers”. They were told to become more hands-on during the production process, including writing more stories. Snepp further claims he was set up for insubordination so that the station could fire him as they had done to other older journalists.
According to NBCUniversal, Snepp was fired because he refused to perform assigned production tasks. He also allegedly dared executives to fire him. The defense claims that Snepp refused to learn how to operate the newsroom editing system. While working at NBC, Snepp also worked on television pitches, side projects, and HBO movie scripts. NBCUniversal alleges Snepp had violated NBC’s policies by dating a confidential source while he was working on an investigative report. He also allegedly threatened to investigate a spa where his girlfriend had been hurt.
Snepp claims that NBC has a culture of age discrimination, and asked for $5.5 million in damages. When he was fired, he was making $120,000 a year and was reportedly devastated. He had planned on staying at the station until he retired. He had been hired by the station at age 61.
This case is an illustration of how difficult it can be to win an age discrimination case. Although the plaintiff was able to produce evidence that he was fired because of his age, companies can often find another reason to blame it on. No employee is perfect, and the employer can always claim that the employee was fired because he or she was late occasionally or didn’t get along well with other employees. Normally, in order to win an age discrimination case, the plaintiff must be able to show a widespread pattern of age discrimination throughout the company.
Under both federal and state laws, age discrimination in the workplace is illegal, if the employee is over the age of 40. Both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (federal) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit an employer from discriminating when it comes to any aspect of employment because of a person’s age. Harassment based on age is also prohibited.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe that no employee should be terminated because of his or her age. If you believe that you were discriminated against because of your age, call the Oakland age discrimination attorneys at Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. Our attorneys will help evaluate your case for free, and if we choose to accept it, you pay us no fees unless we win a judgment for you. Call us today to learn more or to schedule your free consultation.