KTLA news reporter Marta Waller officially filed suit on Tuesday against Tribune Broadcasting, KTLA Inc., station news director David Goldberg and VP and G.M. John Reardon, alleging age and sex discrimination and defamation in her being stripped of her anchor duties at the station last fall.
Waller’s attorney, V. James De Simone of the Venice-based civil rights firm of Schobrun and De Simone, said that the suit seeks no specific sum for damages.
“We will allow a jury to decide what is fair compensation,” De Simone said.
The suit charges that the 44-year-old Waller’s demotions from anchor positions on the midday and weeknight KTLA newscasts were “based on the discriminatory belief that it was inappropriate to permit an older woman” to anchor the newscasts, according to the suit.
De Simone said Tuesday that the “clear motive” for removing Waller from her anchor positions was the fact she was an older woman. He called the lawsuit “a civil rights case,” since “workers in California have the right to be free of discrimination in the workplace.
“The station can claim incompetence or poor ratings, but the facts prove otherwise,” De Simone added. “The way we see it, the station lost the May (ratings sweeps) book (last year) and panicked, using Marta as the scapegoat. But since Marta has been taken off of ‘News at Ten,’ the station also lost the sweeps races in November (’96) and February (’97).”
De Simone stressed that Waller gave KTLA and its parent Tribune “ample opportunity” to resolve the situation internally.
“But as the suit alleges,” De Simone said, “instead of investigating and rectifying the situation, Reardon and Goldberg directly retaliated against Marta within three days of her filing a complaint with KTLA’s human resources department.”
That retaliation, De Simone said, included Waller’s being dropped as the chief Los Angeles correspondent for “Tribnet,” reporting stories out of Los Angeles for use on the newscasts of Tribune-owned stations nationally.
Reached on Tuesday, Reardon said that neither he nor the station would have any comment until the situation had been discussed with Tribune’s and KTLA’s lawyers.