Exec sues CTTV over marriage row

Michaels claims Grossi fired her for marrying another employee

Former Columbia TriStar TV production topper Helene Michaels has sued the studio and her former boss, prexy Len Grossi, claiming he fired her because she married another CTTV executive.

News comes just as Sony formally announced it was dismantling Col TriStar Television and laying off up to 70 employees, including Grossi (Daily Variety, Oct. 26).

In her complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Michaels alleges that Grossi began treating her negatively shortly after her marriage to fellow Sony exec Geoffrey De Stefano in May 2000. At the time, De Stefano was director of current programming; he did not report to Michaels.

Michaels told Grossi about her marriage a few days after it took place. “He was very unpleasant and indicated that he had heard about the marriage and hoped it was not true,” according to the suit.

Michaels was later told by Beth Berke, Sony’s executive vice president of human resources, that Grossi was very angry, her employment was in jeopardy, her husband should resign, and “that the way the plaintiff was acting was damaging to women.”

Double standard?

According to the suit, Michaels “reminded Berke that a number of male executives openly conducted notorious sexual and romantic relationships with co-workers and subordinates who reported directly to them, and that their careers had not been adversely affected.”

Michaels, who worked on numerous television series, including “Dawson’s Creek,” “Party of Five,” “Bette” and “The King of Queens,” announced she was leaving CTTV on Oct. 17, 2000.

At the time, she told Daily Variety she was ankling because she had “been asked to step down.” Michaels — who had nearly two years left on her deal — was replaced by former Par exec Tom Mazza, who himself has been laid off in the wake of the shuttering of CTTV.

“Sony made a decision that has more to do with who I am as a person. It didn’t have much to do with performance,” Michaels said at the time.

The suit alleges violations of California discrimination law, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract. Michaels is represented by Michael Plonsker of Alschuler, Grossman, Stein and Kahan.

A Sony spokeswoman declined comment.

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