SF station KPIX sued by fmr. empoyees


Bill Schechner, 66, a reporter and anchor at KPIX Channel 5 for 20 years, and John Lobertini, 48, at the station for nine years, filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court.

The two men were among five male reporters who were laid off March 31 in what KPIX described as a cost-cutting move. The others were Manny Ramos, 56, Tony Russomano, 57, and Rick Quan, 51.

The five men were the only on-air employees fired. Nine other workers from a total staff of 240 were also laid off.

The lawsuit alleges the station "designed and implemented its workforce reduction process to eliminate older employees" and "only male on-air talent" in violation of state laws banning age and gender bias.

It asks for financial compensation for loss of earnings and emotional distress as well as a punitive award for allegedly "cold, callous and intentional" violation of the two men's rights.

KPIX communications director Akilah Monifa said, "Mr. Schechner's and Mr. Lobertini's claims have no merit and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves."

Schechner said, "I want to go back to work. I have spent a lot of my career trying to give voice to those who are often ignored and it is important for me to continue doing this work."

Schechner began his TV career with KQED in 1972, joined KPIX in 1976, moved to NBC Network News in 1981 and returned to KPIX in 1993. Lobertini began in television in Tennessee in 1983 and worked for stations in Salinas and Sacramento before joining KPIX in 1999.

John McGuinn, a lawyer for the two men, said the average age of the 14 employees who were let go in March was 51.9, while the average age of the 226 remaining was 43.9.

The lawsuit alleges, "The statistical likelihood that there could be such a disparity in age, if age were not a factor in the selection process, is less than one-third of one percent."

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