Former Starz Executive Claims Wrongful Termination for Diversity Complaints

A former Starz executive claims in a lawsuit that he was terminated in retaliation for complaining of racial and gender discrimination, as well as what he describes as unethical and illegal conduct.

Keno V. Thomas, who was a senior VP at the company, claims that his termination came after expressing concerns about possible “insider manipulation,” among other things. His lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Starz strongly disputed the allegations.

In addition to Starz, the lawsuit names as defendants Liberty Media, Starz’s former parent company; CEO Chris Albrecht; and Michael Thornton, the company’s chief revenue officer. According to the lawsuit, Thornton was Thomas’ supervisor.

Among other things, Thomas claims that he and his staff were told to “arbitrarily inflate the revenue figures and subscriber numbers because the optics did not look good,” but he “adamantly refused.” He also contends that he was fired for “bringing to light the unlawful influence Liberty” had on a deal between Comcast and Starz, although it is unclear from the complaint what action taken in the situation described is deemed to have been unlawful.

Thomas claims that he was terminated after taking a three-week medical leave, and was told that the reason for his termination was industry consolidation, even though his was the only position in his department eliminated, according to the complaint.

In a statement, a Starz spokeswoman said, “Normally, we would not comment on pending litigation, and, in this instance, the company has not even been served.

“However, based on reading the complaint in the press, rest assured that Starz, as well as the other defendants cited, will defend themselves vigorously against these scurrilous, unsubstantiated and offensive attacks by a disgruntled former employee.”

In his lawsuit, Thomas said that as the only senior African-American executive at the company, he was an advocate for diversity but was subjected “to ridicule” when he made a priority of hiring women and minorities. His suit states that the cable and satellite industry’s “push towards industry consolidation through mergers and acquisitions have only further hampered opportunities for minorities and women.”

The lawsuit was first reported by Deadline.

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