Three months after he was laid off from his position as an evening anchor at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, Jeff Michael sued the station on Friday, claiming discrimination because of health issues exacerbated by stress on the job.
The lawsuit, obtained by Urban Hollywood 411, says Michael was hired as a morning news anchor at $260,000 a year in May 2017, with a pay increase to $275,000 in the third and final year of the agreement.
Michael joined the CBS O&O in 2017, after an 18-year run at Los Angeles Fox affiliate, KTTV.
The newscaster says KCBS management approached him about moving from the morning shows to the evening newscasts in October 2018.
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The lawsuit says Michael’s contract contained specific language that stated “should artist be permanently assigned as anchor on Monday-Friday evening newscasts on KCBS-TV, [the station] shall renegotiate artist’s contract in good faith.”
Michael claims he got a promotion, but the new contract never materialized.
“By late January 2019, it was clear to plaintiff that the reassignment was permanent, and he approached KCBS’s General Manager Steve Mauldin to renegotiate his agreement,” the suit states.
The document alleges that Mauldin told Michael the station had “every intention” of renegotiating the agreement, but the news anchor was asked to wait until after the February sweeps period because it was occupying all of Mauldin’s time.
“As a courtesy to Mauldin, Mr. Michael agreed and waited in good faith,” the suit states.
Michael alleges the stress of waiting for a new contract became so severe that in April 2019, his news director had to take him to a hospital, and he was kept overnight because of a “potential heart attack.”
A short time later, KCBS hired Jay Howell as the new GM. The suit alleges Howell “refused to renegotiate” Michael’s contract “because he had learned of plaintiff’s heart and stress issues.”
As previously reported, the veteran Los Angeles journalist was laid off in May 2020, along with news anchor Sharon Tay and weathercaster Garth Kemp.
Michael’s lawsuit alleges breach of contract and employment discrimination. However, KCBS says the suit is “entirely without merit.”
“Like many other TV stations across the country, KCBS responded to the ongoing and transformative changes in the media industry and circumstances created by the Coronavirus pandemic by reducing its staff size in May,” the station said in a statement to Urban Hollywood 411. “These were difficult decisions to make and we understand Jeff Michael’s disappointment over the elimination of his position. That said, we firmly believe his claims are entirely without merit and we are prepared to defend against these accusations.”