A producer at CBS 60 minutes is suing the network for firing her after she was accused of harassment while turning a blind eye to “much more egregious misconduct” by male employees.
The producer, Alexandra Poolos, says in a gender discrimination lawsuit filed against CBS in New York federal court on Tuesday that the company fired her in violation of civil rights laws after she was falsely accused of bullying an associate producer under her supervision. She points out discrepancies in the way her dismissal was handled, unlike several male producers and editors of the program who have reportedly been the subject of several sexual harassment complaints.
According to the complaint, “sexism and misogyny defined the workplace” at the network. She cites sexual misconduct and harassment claims against former CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves, ex-network host Charlie Rose and former CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves. 60 minutes executive producer Don Hewitt, as well as several other current producers on the program.
Poolos was fired without severance last year after an associate producer under her supervision reported her as a “bully” who “didn’t respect boundaries,” according to the lawsuit. In a memo, CBS said it fired her for harassment, discussing the complaining employee’s complaints with others and not being honest, the complaint said.
Poolos claims that CBS applied unequal standards to fire her, compared to male employees. She says the network launched a “bogus investigation” and failed to adhere to its nondiscrimination policy that requires CBS to review all evidence collected.
“Poolos is not aware that CBS has fired a man 60 minutes employees based on a single complaint by a subordinate regarding conduct that was not alleged to constitute unlawful discrimination or retaliation,” the complaint states. “In contrast to the harsh treatment of Poolos, CBS has declined to take any meaningful disciplinary action in response to serious allegations of misconduct against male employees.”
In the lawsuit, Poolos points to several current and former employees of the program whose alleged sexual misconduct and harassment were not addressed by the network. She claims her ex-supervisor “emotionally abused and sexually harassed her for years” and that the network “discouraged her from filing complaints.”
Among the people Poolos mentions is former CBS News president Neeraj Khemlani, who left his post in August and oversaw flagship programs such as CBS Evening News and 60 minutes. She claims he was the subject of numerous complaints alleging discrimination against women and employees of color, but that the network “gave him multiple opportunities” to address his behavior instead of firing him.
“Despite numerous complaints about his abusive behavior from CBS employees, especially women and people of color, Khemlani has faced no meaningful consequences for his abusive behavior and remains associated with CBS,” the complaint said.
Poolos claims gender discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract. She is seeking an order requiring CBS to adopt or strengthen anti-discrimination policies, as well as damages.
CBS declined to comment, citing a policy regarding pending litigation.
New York’s top prosecutor last year announced a $30.5 million settlement with CBS and Moonves for misleading the company’s investors about his misconduct and covering up sexual assault allegations against him. Moonves resigned in 2018 after public accusations from a group of women.