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Lawsuit alleges discrimination starts at the top of the company

A lawsuit against Viacom, Black Entertainment Television (BET) and the network's former programming president alleges that gender discrimination permeates the upper ranks of the network and creates an atmosphere of hostility toward women throughout the company.

The former head of original films at the network accuses the company of a misogynistic atmosphere that is outright hostile and demeaning toward women.

The former executive ran into what she describes as a virtual wall of misogyny after she developed breast cancer and needed to go on medical leave. Her bosses retaliated against her for her medical leave, saying that her disability somehow prevented her from being able to represent BET. Another executive even went so far as to opine to the woman's coworkers that she was lying about her cancer diagnosis in order to avoid work.

That was far from the first incident of harassment and retaliation she'd faced, however. She alleges that the former programming director routinely threatened and harassed her and other women, took credit for their work and demanded immediate compliance with his orders even if they ran counter to her job duties. When she complained to the human resources department, she suddenly became the focus of an investigation herself -- she was informed that her management style or "tone" wasn't appropriate. That, she says, is a typical form of retaliation and gender stereotyping often used against women who dare to shake the status quo.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the programming director was eventually let go -- but not because of his harassment. The plaintiff in the discrimination case believes it was because she wasn't there for him to use to his advantage. Unable to do the job on his own and without her there to mooch credit from, his job performance slid.

Just the same, the indignities she endured still weren't over. When there was a suggestion that she might take legal action, the network told industry insiders that she had performance problems. She was eventually terminated while still on sick leave.

This case serves as an example of how both subtle and overt discrimination can damage even a well-respected executive's career and reputation. Misogyny and entrenched attitudes can put a target on a victim's back if she dares to complain even through the supposedly acceptable methods. If you've suffered similar discrimination problems, talk to an attorney today.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Former Top BET Exec Claims "Misogynistic Culture" in Discrimination Lawsuit," Eriq Gardner, May 04, 2017

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