A producer on CBS’s 60 Minutes is suing the network for firing her after she was accused of harassment while turning a blind eye to “far more egregious misconduct” by male employees.
The producer, Alexandra Poolos, says in a gender discrimination lawsuit filed against CBS on Tuesday in New York federal court that the company terminated her in violation of civil rights laws after she was falsely accused of bullying an associate producer she supervised. She points to discrepancies in how her firing was handled opposed to several male producers and editors of the program who’ve allegedly been the subject of various complaints for sexual harassment.
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 anchor Charlie Rose and former 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt, as well as several other current producers on the program.
Poolos was let go without severance last year after an associate producer she supervised reported her for being a “bully” who didn’t “respect boundaries,” the lawsuit says. In a memo, CBS stated it terminated her for harassment, discussing the complaining employee’s complaints with others and not being truthful, according to the complaint.
Poolos argues CBS applied uneven standards to fire her, compared with male employees. She says that the network initiated a “bogus investigation,” failing to adhere to nondiscrimination policies that require CBS to include review of all evidence collected.
“Poolos is not aware of CBS firing male 60 Minutes employees based on a single complaint from a subordinate about behavior that was not alleged to constitute unlawful discrimination or retaliation,” states the complaint. “In contrast with its 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 went unaddressed by the network. She alleges that her ex-supervisor “emotionally abused and sexually harassed her for years” and that the network “discouraged [her] from raising complaints.”
Among the people that Poolos mentions is former CBS News president Neeraj Khemlani, who stepped down from his position in August overseeing flagship programs such as CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes. She claims he was the subject of numerous complaints for discrimination against women and employees of color but that the network “gave him multiple chances” to address his behavior instead of firing him.
“Despite the many complaints about his abusive behavior from CBS employees, particularly women and people of color, Khemlani has faced no meaningful consequences for his abusive behavior and remains associated with CBS,” the complaint states.
Poolos claims gender discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract. She seeks an order requiring CBS to adopt or strengthen antidiscrimination policies, as well as punitive damages.
CBS declined to comment, citing a policy on pending litigation.
New York’s top prosecutor announced last year a $30.5 million settlement with CBS and Moonves for misleading the company’s investors about his misconduct and concealing sexual assault allegations against him. Moonves resigned in 2018 in the wake of public accusations by a group of women.