According to an article by The Hollywood Reporter, an ex-TMZ writer is suing the celebrity news website, Warner Bros. (the site’s production company), and her former boss Evan Rosenblum for gender discrimination and wrongful termination. The plaintiff, Catherine “Taryn” Hillin, describes TMZ as a “boys club” where the leaders openly favor male employees.
As the only female writer for TMZ’s website when she was hired in 2012, Hillin suspected her gender had something to do with her employer’s open hostility toward her work. Plus, she was passed over for promotions that went to less-qualified male employees.
Hillin states in her complaint that TMZ’s attitude toward women wasn’t a secret. During her time there, multiple colleagues told Hillin “TMZ hates women.” She also alleges that Rosenblum “routinely yelled at and humiliated” her, saying, “I f---ing hate this sh-- you hand in” and “don’t be a girl.” The last comment is especially worth an eyebrow raise: singling out her gender in work disputes can be considered illegal harassment.
Other examples of Rosenblum’s discrimination reportedly include how he refused to let Hillin rewrite her own assignments, whereas male employees could handle their own rewrites. The suit also claims he killed a story he’d previously planned to publish after discovering Hillin was the writer.
To top it all off, Hillin complained about the way she was being treated and was promptly fired. Now she’s seeking compensatory damages and payment for her attorney fees.
Where TMZ Went Wrong: The Telltale Signs of Sex-Based Discrimination
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sex-based discrimination occurs when an applicant or employee is mistreated because of their sex. Moreover, it’s always illegal in employment situations, including…
- Job assignments.
- Fringe benefits.
- And any other condition of employment.
Hillin’s case against TMZ may indeed hold water in court if she can prove she was passed up for promotions and fired because of her gender. Though these claims often boil down to a he-said / she-said ordeal, the media company’s history of few female employees may support Hillin’s claims – or at the very least, cast doubt on the defendant.
How to Avoid TMZ’s Fate: Tips for Protecting Your Small Business
To adhere with Equal Employment Opportunity laws and avoid an employment discrimination lawsuit like the one TMZ faces, you should…
- Treat all applicants and employees equally.
- Train supervisors in EEOC laws so they don’t open an avenue of liability.
- Keep accurate performance reviews and document all hiring / promotion / firing procedures.
Keep in mind that even the best-laid prevention measures may not be enough. You can do everything in your power to treat your employees equally and respectfully and still be accused of discrimination. There’s just no predicting human behavior. If a former employee is unhappy with the way things panned out and they happen to belong to a protected class (e.g., women, minorities, people with disabilities, etc.), they may view their layoff as a product of discrimination.
That’s why every employer should consider carrying Employment Practices Liability Insurance. This coverage steps in when your small business is sued over…
- Mismanaging employee benefits.
- Sexually harassing employees.
- Wrongfully terminating an employee.
- Wrongfully disciplining an employee.
- Discriminating based on age, gender, religion, race, national origin, pregnancy status, physical ability, and other factors.
- Making negligent decisions related to hiring, promotions, or compensation.
- And more.
EPLI covers your attorney fees, settlements or judgments, and other court costs when a former, current, or potential employee brings one of these expensive claims against your small business. Think of it as your financial safety net when your best attempts to be a fair and honest employer aren’t enough.