LOS ANGELES (CN) - A 51-year-old black Latino correspondent sued CNN for $5 million, claiming discriminatory network bosses hit him with trumped-up plagiarism charges to justify firing him.
CNN hired Stanley Wilson in 1996 in an entry-level position, Wilson says in his Oct. 6 Superior Court complaint against the network, Turner Broadcasting System, and Peter Janos, vice president and bureau chief of CNN's Western region.
Wilson claims that he became an award-winning producer on some of CNN's most acclaimed shows, including Soledad O'Brien's "Black in America" series.
Wilson was promoted in 2000 to become the network's first African-American producer at the Los Angeles bureau. But during his 17 years at the network he never rose to the position of senior producer because of age and race discrimination, Wilson says in the lengthy complaint.
He blames Janos. Wilson claims that in the run-up to his Jan. 28 firing, Janos passed him over for a position as senior producer on Anderson Cooper 360 and other shows.
He claims Janos promoted a younger, white producer named Jack Hannah to the position. Hannah is not a party to the lawsuit.
Janos placed Hannah on the desk opposite Wilson, and warned Wilson to "keep up" with the younger producer, according to the 25-page complaint.
Before the alleged snub, Wilson says, he had taken five weeks paternity leave to be with his wife, who had given birth to twins after she had several fertility treatments under his CNN health insurance plan.
"By awarding Hannah prestigious duties that were formerly performed by plaintiff, and relegating plaintiff to inferior assignments, Janos retaliated against plaintiff for exercising his protected right to paternity leave and for his complaints about discrimination in the workplace," the lawsuit states.
Wilson says CNN hit him with plagiarism charges after he covered a Jan. 7 press conference about Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca's retirement.
Wilson claims that Janos put the story on the back burner when CNN accused Wilson of plagiarizing three sentences from another story.
Wilson claims the accusations were "merely a pretext" for firing him because of his race, age and for taking paternity leave to care for his wife and children.
"Even had plaintiff committed the offense of which he was being accused, terminating him would have been a grossly disproportionate response," the lawsuit states.
Wilson contrasts his experience with Time magazine editor and CNN host Fareed Zakaria. CNN "briefly suspended" Zakaria last year when he admitted that he had used unattributed phrases for a Time column, the complaint states.
Wilson has not found another job since leaving CNN. He says the news network made the plagiarism claims to prospective employers.
He seeks $5 million in damages for discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, wrongful termination and defamation.
Wilson is represented by Lisa Maki and Carney Shegerian of Santa Monica firm Shegerian & Associates.
CNN did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.