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Former MTV exec sues for wrongful termination based on sex and age

After five years of conflict in MTV’s talent and music department, a former vice president has filed a wrongful termination suit against the company, its parent company Viacom and affiliates. After years of effective service to the company and two decades of experience in the music industry, the woman maintains, she was retaliated against and fired due to age and gender discrimination.

The woman, who has worked with artists such as The Black Eyed Peas and John Legend, claims that the leadership of the talent and music department at MTV engaged in a long-term pattern of outrageous, bullying and discriminatory behavior.

Hired as a senior talent director in 2005, she was promoted to vice president of the department in 2008, where she served until her alleged wrongful termination in 2010. At the time she was vice president of the department, MTV hired a man as senior vice president. From that point on, the woman says, she immediately began experiencing discrimination.

Shortly after he was hired, the new senior VP slashed her duties. On numerous occasions, he accused her of being “too emotional.” He excluded her from key meetings and cut her off during conference calls.

While claiming that the department didn’t have the budget to allow the vice president to travel to MTV awards shows in Europe and Africa, he sent younger women and male employees on those trips. She was repeatedly passed over in favor of younger, less senior women when it came to coveted assignments such as the MTV Music Awards and a video shoot with Rihanna.

One of those younger female employees turned out to be at the very center of the issue. According to the complaint, the younger woman was hired against the VP’s advice. While they worked together, however, she allegedly told the VP that she had “engaged in inappropriate activity” with another vice president, and spoke of engaging in similar activity with an unrelated senior vice president.

The VP evidently soon learned that work rules and expectations that were harshly enforced in her case did not seem to apply to the younger woman. In the lawsuit, the VP asserts that the woman would cry and become defensive when confronted with “any constructive criticism or management guidance.”

When the younger woman chose an unusually expensive hotel and car for a business trip, the vice president questioned her expense report, because she herself had been reprimanded by the senior vice president for choosing a car with GPS. The younger woman apparently “became defensive and aggressive” and accused the VP of being belligerent.

Yet the two women were friends enough that the younger woman gave the VP journals, a heart with a compass and a book of poetry as gifts.

Nevertheless, the younger woman complained to company management that the VP was “inappropriately aggressive and controlling” and that she had “inappropriately contacted [her] during non-work hours.”

MTV terminated the vice president in response, characterizing it as a “pattern” of improper behavior on her part.

The former vice president believes that instead there was a pattern of age and gender discrimination at the company, and she is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Former Vice President Sues MTV & Viacom,” Jonny Bonner, Aug. 23, 2012

Our firm represents people who are victims of wrongful termination. For more information, please visit the employment discrimination page of our website.