Fired News Anchor Warns His Station

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – Former anchorman Larry Conners, who was fired after claiming that the IRS was “hammering him” for his tough interview with President Obama, filed an EEOC complaint against KMOV-TV and Belo Corp.
     Conners, 66, claims he is a victim of race and gender discrimination.
     Also named as defendant/respondents are KMOV general manager Mark Pimentel and its news director Sean McLaughlin.
     Conners had been a news anchor on KMOV evening broadcasts at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. since 1986.
     He was suspended and then fired after claiming on Facebook in May that the IRS was “hammering him” for his interview with Obama in 2012.
     He posted the statement in the wake of tea party groups’ accusations that the IRS was denying them tax exemptions.
     After Conners’ claim made headlines, he backtracked and said that his problems with the IRS preceded his interview with the president.
     In his two-page EEOC complaint, Conners claims that KMOV began discriminating against him in 2010, when he complained to management about the disparity in pay between him and co-anchor Vicki Newton, who is black. His complaint led to arbitration.
     “Since that arbitration concluded in April 2012, I have been treated differently by KMOV,” Conners states in the complaint. “Most recent examples include: McLaughlin and Pimentel demoted me from prime anchor reporting the news at the 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. and/or 6 p.m. broadcasts to only anchoring the 6 p.m. broadcast, McLaughlin stopped sending me out to field anchor major breaking news stories, Pimentel only offered me a two year contract renewal but effectively only provided me with an additional 16 months of employment.
     “Prior to my complaint about discrimination, salary disparity and the arbitration, I was the prime anchor for the 10 p.m. news, 5 p.m. and/or 6 p.m. news broadcasts, I routinely anchored from the field on major breaking news stories. In addition, the other news staff and news anchors, who had less experience, less seniority and lesser public recognition than me, received three year contracts. Other news staff with less experience was sent into the field to cover major breaking news stories, when KMOV used to send me into the field to anchor the major breaking news stories.”
     Conners he was demoted after suffering a work-related injury in December 2012.
     He claims that he had regularly discussed news topics on his KMOV Facebook page.
     “However, since my complaints, Pimentel and McLaughlin have severely scrutinized my comments; prevented me from continuing my Facebook discussion about the IRS controversy beginning May 13, 2013; directed me to read a statement on air that was inaccurate; blocked my access to my KMOV Facebook page, Twitter and KMOV email accounts; prohibited me from commenting or publishing anything about the IRS discussion; and terminated my employment with KMOV,” Conners says in the EEOC complaint.
     “Similarly situated staff and news anchors were not prohibited from discussing news stories or personal experience on their KMOV Facebook pages, and they were not disciplined or terminated from employment with KMOV” as a result of their posts.
     Conners claims that the similarly situated employees were all younger and none had complained to KMOV about discrimination.
     Complaints to the EEOC may be precursors to federal lawsuits. The EEOC may pursue a claim or dismiss it. A person can still file a civil lawsuit even if the EEOC finds that no federal law has been broken.

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