Former WABC Anchor Files Federal Lawsuit Alleging Sex and Race Discrimination

WABC, a New York City television station, is being sued by its former weekend sports anchor and reporter who claims she was passed over for promotion because she was a white female.

Laura Behnke began working for WABC in December 2010, according to the complaint. Her immediate supervisor was Camille Edwards, an Africa-American female; another supervisor was David Davis, a white male.

In May 2016, WABC announced that the station’s main sports anchor, a white male, was leaving his position as of July 30. Behnke expressed her interest in the job to Edwards who replied that they would talk about it soon.  

Over the next few months, Behnke continued to express her interest to Edwards and Davis, both by herself and through her agent. At one point Davis told her that WABC intended to “promote from within.” Behnke claims that, during that period, she received encouraging signs that the promotion would be hers, including working as the temporary main sports anchor and being asked by Edwards for input into how to improve the sports department.

On October 6, 2018, however, Behnke met with Edwards and Davis and was informed that she did not get the job; instead a white male, previously not affiliated with the station, was hired. Behnke expressed her belief that, “if I were a man this would have already been my job instead of waiting five months for WABC to make the decision,” the complaint states.

In addition, Behnke claims she was reprimanded by Edwards for posting non-sports-related items on social media, while other employees who did the same thing were not. Behnke responded, “If you look at many posts by other talent at the station you will see very similar things. I just want to make sure I am not being singled out and/or bullied on this matter,” according to the complaint.

In September 2017 Behnke, through her attorneys, complained in writing to WABC of discrimination and retaliation. She also complained to having to continue to work directly for Edwards, but received no response.

In November 2017 Davis asked to meet alone with Behnke to discuss her upcoming contract renegotiation. Behnk, aware of a previous employee who had purportedly been sexually harassed by Davis, declined the invitation.

According to the complaint, two days later Davis submitted a written offer to Behnke to continue working for WABC for three years with a pay raise. Behnke noted that it did not state who her direct supervisor would be. She was given a deadline of December 1, 2017 to either accept or reject the proposal. 

Behnke claims that the offer put her in a tenuous position: “If I accept then WABC will say my complaint can’t be valid if I still choose to work there. But if I decline then WABC will say I abandoned my position and have no claim to damages,” the complaint states.

Behnke claims the fact that WABC never told her whether she would be working directly under Edwards together with the expiration of the contract without providing such information constituted an adverse employment action. Behnke also notes that, within months, both Davis and Edwards were also gone from WABC.

The case was brought by David H. Rosenberg of Mineola, New York, who filed the action in the Southern District of New York.

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