Many of you have been asking for an update on the claims of discrimination and retaliation former KBTX meteorologist Bob French made against his former station.
Today, representatives for French's attorney issued a press release (read below) that says French is filing a federal lawsuit against KBTX.
Here is the release:
Bryan/College Station, TX. July 28, 2014: Robert “Bob” French, Chief Meteorologist and Weathercaster employed by CBS affiliate KBTX in Bryan and College Station for 23 years has filed a federal lawsuit against KBTX claiming breach of contract, age and disability discrimination, harassment and retaliation as well as violations against the Federal Medical Leave Act.
The federal lawsuit filed in Houston, Texas alleges that KBTX targeted French in early 2013 because of his age and because he was placed in inpatient hospital care due to exhaustion and depression following overwork over the 2012 Christmas and New Year’s holidays. French alleges that employees under the age of 40 were allowed time-off while French was not. While away on FMLA leave that would protect his job until his return, the lawsuit alleges that French was reprimanded for the effects of his exhaustion and depression and KBTX openly sought to replace him. In what KBTX General Manager Mike Wright referred to as a “coincidence”, KBTX advertised an open meteorologist position at the same time Bob French was away from work on protected medical leave according to the suit.
Bob French’s return to work on air was short lived as within days after his return, French was fired from KBTX in July, 2013 and was replaced by Shel Winkley a weathercaster under 40 years of age and without a disability, according to the suit.
French had previously filed a charge of Age and Disability Discrimination as well as Retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The charge named KBTX and its parent company, Gray Television Group, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia as respondents. The EEOC investigation was completed and notification of right to sue was mailed on May 29, 2014 prompting the filing of the federal lawsuit by French.
Bob French is represented by Houston Employment Lawyer Charles H. Peckham.
“For KBTX to have violated Bob’s legally-protected rights is offensive” Peckham explains. “If KBTX can fire a beloved man such as Bob French for being over the age of 40 or for simply exercising his right to disability leave, no employee in Texas is safe from similar treatment. Bob is standing up to send a message to KBTX that folks over 40 with temporary or permanent disabilities are not second-class citizens.”
Bob French was employed by a written contract that governed his activities at the station. According to the contract, French could not be terminated without cause. Bob French claims that none of the reasons given for his termination from employment were “for cause”, but instead were for illegal reasons related to his age, disability, and in retaliation for having taken FMLA leave.
Charles Peckham of the Houston-based law firm of Peckham PLLC is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. No stranger to high profile cases, Peckham is currently working as the civil attorney for Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson and nationally-syndicated radio host and comedian, George Willborn. Charles Peckham concentrates in many areas of litigation including employment, real estate and commercial law.
A statement by KBTX parent company Gray Television, Inc. should be out later today. When I get it, I will post it here.