If the employer is hiring the women to report the weather or represent it in other on-air broadcasts, then the answer may be “yes.” (Blog writers sometimes try to sensationalize their posts to get more readers. Shameful, I know.)
Kyle Hunter sued CBS Broadcasting for discrimination when he was passed up for two jobs reporting the weather on Los Angeles television stations. According to Hunter, CBS instead hired two young women “cut from the same blond, attractive, buxom mold,” which showed “CBS'[s] intent to use gender and youth as criteria.”
CBS brought a motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California Code of Procedure section 425.16, commonly referred to as the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. Under that statute, a defendant may ask the court to strike claims arising from the defendant’s exercise of constitutional rights. CBS argued that the lawsuit sought to chill its free speech rights.
The trial court denied the motion, concluding that CBS had not shown that the lawsuit arose from protected activity. An appellate court saw things differently, holding that CBS’s choice of a weather anchor was an act in furtherance of its First Amendment rights. Here’s the opinion (pdf).
So this case doesn’t represent a sea change in discrimination law. It’s more of a tempest in a teapot — holding that broadcasters may get more leeway in selecting on-air talent than other employers. That dental assistant in Iowa fired for being irresistibly attractive should consider a move and a career change. If nothing else, I bet she’ll find the weather in LA more to her liking.
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