Stanley Wilson, a former writer and producer for CNN will pursue racial discrimination and retaliation claims after being allegedly fired for a plagiarism incident. Wilson, a longtime employee for CNN allegedly failed to attribute credit to parts of a news piece that never ran. In the wrongful termination lawsuit, Wilson claims that he was only promoted once during his 13 years of work with the company and alleges that the failure to receive appropriate promotion on the job was due to the fact that he is African-American.
Wilson’s suit is filed under California law for race, age, ancestry, disability discrimination and retaliation. CNN already attempted to dismiss Wilson’s claims through the use of the “anti-SLAPP law” (strategic lawsuit against public participation). According to the California anti-SLAPP law, when a lawsuit infringes upon a party’s right to freedom of speech or participation in the legal process, the party can request the court dismiss the case. The court ruled that the anti-SLAPP law did not apply in Wilson’s suit – even after CNN presented argument that allowing Wilson to sue over his termination would inhibit CNN’s free speech rights for public interest.
Many see this ruling as a victory for workers making discrimination claims – particular in the entertainment and media industries. Employers in these fields are sometimes negatively affected by their employer’s abuse of the anti-SLAPP law and the findings in this case indicate they can be protected when they file a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the job. In effect, this ruling is the court reminding the industry and the public itself that discrimination is not the same as free speech.
If you have questions about what constitutes discrimination in the workplace or harassment on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.