CBS & Paramount Global Hit With Discrimination & Retaliation Suit By Ex-’60 Minutes’ Producer; Alleges “Toxic Environment” Against Women At Network

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A former 60 Minutes producer claims she was falsely fired from the long running newsmagazine show last year, and now she’s suing CBS, CBS News and parent company Paramount Global for discrimination – and naming a lot of names.

In a vast ranging complaint filed today in federal court in New York, Alexandra Poolos says she was axed from 60 Minutes in early 2022 after 10 award winning years because an allegedly untruthful and self-serving colleague accused her of being too aggressive in the workplace. Poolos and her Vladeck, Raskin & Clark P.C. lawyers assert she was stitched up due to the “sexism and misogyny that “defined” CBS News, and the network wanted to get rid of her for raising concerns about the behavior of others at the organization.

“CBS has a long history of shielding men from answering for their misconduct, including unlawful conduct,” the 46-page filing bluntly states, naming ex-CEO Les Moonves,  ex-60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager, current 60 Minutes associate producer David Levine and ex-CBS News president Neeraj Khemlani, who left suddenly in August, among others.  Her suit also notes the legal action London-based 60 Minutes associate producer Cassandra Vinograd took in 2019 for CBS allegedly retaliating against her after she complained about the conduct of her boss, producer Michael Gavshon.

“Sexism and misogyny defined the workplace of CBS, including CBS News, over many years.”

60 Minutes

“Poolos was not spared from the toxic environment against women that has long plagued the network,” the suit adds of her stint at 60 Minutes, which debuted back in 1968. “Her former supervisor, Producer Shachar Bar-On, emotionally and verbally abused and sexually harassed Poolos for years,” it states detailing alleged instances of pornography, verbal insults about correspondent Lesley Stahl’s appearance, masturbation and a drunken attempt to get Poolos to “come to his hotel room.” The suit adds: “Throughout Poolos’s tenure, male employees suffered no consequences for their actions and many still work at defendants, including Bar-On, despite well-founded allegations of abuse, sexism, and sexual harassment.”

When it gets to the specifics of her own discrimination and retaliation case, Poolos lays out her take on what really went down.

“Poolos’s career came to a screeching halt when an Associate Producer, Collette Richards made false allegations against Poolos about being a ‘bully’ and ‘not having boundaries,’ which Richards plainly fabricated to conceal her own serious deficiencies, including her outright refusal to do her job,” says the jury trial seeking filing.

“Applying different standards to Poolos than it had to male Producers alleged to have engaged in far more egregious misconduct, including unlawful behavior, defendants fired Poolos in February 2022,” the complaint continues.

“Defendants justified their discriminatory decision based on a biased investigation that Human Resources Vice President Renee Balducci conducted and information that a third party, CNN Producer Scott Bronstein, a man, provided to the network even though Bronstein was Richards’s close friend, mentor, and primary reference to secure her job at 60 Minutes. At the same time, CBS refused to consider Poolos’s evidence, a 10-year veteran of defendants, which undermined the allegations against her. To add insult to injury, not only did defendants fire Poolos, but they refused to pay Poolos severance in violation of contractual obligations and continued to attack her after she left.”

Upon request for comment from Deadline on Poolos’ suit, a CBS News spokesperson said: “We do not comment on pending litigation.”

Poolos is seeking a variety of damages, but the Peabody Award winner also wants her full severance and her “whole for all earnings.”  Additionally, the CNN alum desires a court judgement to “take such affirmative steps as are necessary to ensure that the effects of these unlawful practices are eliminated and do not continue to affect plaintiff’s employment opportunities.”

60 Minutes‘ 56th season premiered on September 17, 2023.

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