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CBS accused of gender discrimination and retaliation

In a lawsuit filed in New York on Dec. 17, a CBS associate producer who once worked on the long-running news program "60 Minutes" accuses the broadcaster of gender discrimination and retaliation. The woman claims that one of the show's producers sent her a lewd and inappropriate photograph. When she filed a complaint with the network's human resources department, she says she was stripped of her work responsibilities.

The 63-year-old producer admits to sending the photograph, but he claims that he sent it to the woman by mistake. He says that he intended to send the picture to his sister. The woman says that the photograph made her feel fearful and uncomfortable. The producer says that he reported the incident to network executives and cooperated with the ensuing investigation. The woman claims that human resources personnel advised her to stay at home if she felt awkward working with the producer.

CBS has denied the woman's allegations and has vowed to mount a vigorous defense if the case goes to court. The company says that it investigated the allegation thoroughly and did all that it could to accommodate the woman. The network's attorneys have considerable experience in this area; the company has either fired or forced out a president, executive producer and news anchor over sexual harassment allegations in recent years.

Employers often resolve cases like this one discretely to keep potentially embarrassing allegations private. However, worries about a flood of similar lawsuits could make employers reluctant to settle employment discrimination claims that are not supported by at least some evidence. This is why attorneys familiar with these matters may encourage the victims of gender discrimination or sexual harassment to keep detailed records of inappropriate or unfair conduct and the steps that employers took when they were reported.

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