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Indian-origin broadcaster sues US employer

July 05, 2011 11:05 IST
Veteran former Indian American broadcaster Sue Manteris has filed a federal discrimination and harassment lawsuit against her former employer, KSNV/Channel 3.

The Varanasi-born Sunanda "Sue" Tripathi-Manteris, filed the lawsuit against station owner Valley Broadcasting Co, Intermountain West Communications, other corporate entities and KSNV station managers and executives in US district court for Nevada.

Manteris, who had been with the NBC Las Vegas affiliate for 22 years before her final broadcast on June 9, claims that KSNV let her go because she was too old and from an ethnic minority.

She had been told her contract was not being renewed because of cost-cutting measures at the NBC-owned KSNV-TV station.

But Manteris, who is in her mid 40s, claims she was picked on because she was considered too old to read the news. She also alleges that her contract was not renewed because she was a minority worker, and said other staff from ethnic minorities had been replaced by white reporters.

She called the lawsuit "a fight I couldn't run away from."

"Cost-cutting measures cannot target all minority workers in a department, and women over 40 only; not in this millennium, not in this country," Manteris said, adding, "Unfortunately, some businesses still need to learn that."

The lawsuit, which was filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, names Valley Broadcasting Co, owners of KSNV. It also names news director Bob Stoldal, general manager Lisa Howfield, and KSNV attorney Douglas Roman Hill.

"This case is about principles, ethics and the law of our land," Manteris said in a statement.

In her complaint, Manteris alleged that the station "has failed to ensure a workplace free from discrimination and employment."

"Despite being a large and highly visible organization, the station has no company diversity training programme... (nor) human resource department involvement in the handling of discrimination complaints," she said.

Manteris is one of the first Asian-American broadcasters in Las Vegas. She moved to the city to work in Channel 3 as a reporter in 1989. She eventually became news anchor and in recent years, was being promoted by the station on-air as 'anchor mom'.

Her complaint also detailed how Manteris brought a discrimination complaint against the station in 2010.

This was a year after its director/vice president for news Robert Stoldal "made a disproportionate number of personnel changes each strongly indicating a race, age and or gender bias."

The lawsuit also focuses on the station's promotion of Manteris as an 'anchor mom', while Stoldal allegedly undermined her ability to be a parent by changing her hours once she was knocked off the 11 pm newscast.

The suit claims: 'Incredibly, Manteris was being bullied and harassed over her desire to be a mom and provide adequate childcare for her young son, while at the same time, she was being promoted on-air as "anchor mom" and her series franchise was on bullying.'

Her complaint also accused Stoldal of not renewing all five minority anchors from the team that he inherited when he came to KSNV in 2009.

At the same time, he forced out both female anchors who were over age 40 and replaced them with younger female employees, Manteris said in her discrimination complaint.

News stories which portrayed minorities in a positive light or were soft on minorities were axed, she also noted.

"Since filing a complaint of discrimination in October 2010, Sue Manteris stood up to intense pressure in the workplace, and didn't back down one inch," Gus Flangas of Flangas McMillan Law Group, said in a statement.

This Las Vegas-based law office filed the lawsuit against KSNV/Channel 3, its parent company and its key managers on behalf of Manteris.

"The facts in this case are straightforward and we will be pursuing the case aggressively," Flangas added in his statement. "This is not a fight that I sought, but unfortunately, it was not a fight I could run away from either," Manteris said in her statement.

Seema Hakhu Kochru in Houston
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