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Ex-CBS Reporters Didn’t Prove Age-Based Layoffs

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge dismissed the remaining age discrimination claims of two former television reporters who were laid off from a CBS affiliate during a round of cost-cutting staff reductions.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel found that the layoffs at KPIX-TV in March 2008 did not disproportionately affect employees who were aged 40 and over.

William Schechner and John Lobertini were 66 and 47 years old, respectively, when they lost their reporter jobs from the CBS Broadcasting-owned San Francisco news station. The pair claimed they were singled out because of their ages and gender, and that the three other on-air reporters selected for layoff were also older than 40.

The court had dismissed Schechner and Lobertini's claims for gender discrimination, disparate treatment age discrimination, punitive damages and wage-related damages in July 2010, but it wanted to reconsider the disparate impact claim.

The reporters' attorney presented an expert's statistical analysis "that the age makeup of the individuals who were fired was extremely unlikely to occur by chance," according to the latest ruling, dated Jan. 13.

Patel, however, remained unconvinced.

"Defendant argues that notwithstanding the statistical correlation between termination and employee age, for purposes of a disparate impact analysis, the only relevant question is whether the reduction-in-force had a disproportionate impact on employees aged 40 or over compared with employees under 40," Patel wrote. "In other words, even if a 66-year-old employee such as Schechner is more likely to be terminated than a younger employee, so long as 40-plus-year-olds as a group are not significantly disproportionately affected by the challenged conduct, plaintiffs' disparate impact claim must fail. The overwhelming weight of authority supports defendant's position."

Although all five laid-off employees were over 40, "the average age of KPIX employees after the reduction-in-force remained well over 40," Patel noted.


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