Hostile environment: CBS boss allegedly told producer to sleep around for success

CBS News’ headaches may just have started with Charlie Rose rather than ending with him. The New York Post reports on a recent lawsuit filed by a longtime producer alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Black Rock. Erin Gee worked for seventeen years at the network and claims that a systemic environment of abuse got so bad that one boss told her to sleep with an editor after complaining about his work:

A week after CBS host Charlie Rose was outed as an alleged serial sex harasser, one of the network’s former producers says she was told by a boss that she would have to sleep with coworkers to get anywhere in the company.

“I was in a state of shock,” said Erin Gee, 44, who worked for CBS for 17 years and recently filed a Manhattan federal suit alleging rampant sex discrimination at the network.

Gee said one of the most offensive incidents occurred in 2011, when she was talking with her boss at “CBS Evening News,” Robert Klug, about a workplace dispute.

Klug, now 58, said “she should ‘have sex’ with [the] video editor who had been difficult to work with to ‘break the ice,’ ” according to court papers.

According to Gee, Klug later followed up with a query to another male boss to see whether he had slept with his female subordinates, specifically Gee. Gee got demoted to the weekends after filing a formal complaint in 2015, according to the lawsuit, after being told that the network would investigate the issue. Klug, also a former director of the network’s flagship news program 60 Minutes, got a promotion not long afterward.

However, the Daily Mail notes that Gee’s complaint didn’t get too far with the EEOC, which prompted the lawsuit. CBS News denies the allegations:

Gee had filed a Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint but it was dismissed back in March. …

CBS says Gee’s allegations against the company and Klug are wholly without merit.

‘Contrary to those allegations, Ms Gee was treated in a nondiscriminatory and nonretaliatory manner,’ a CBS spokesperson said.

The Rose case may make this a little more difficult to sustain. The network appeared to have little insight into the environments which it created, and Klug would have been one of those tasked with properly managing it. CBS reacted immediately after the Washington Post exposed Rose, but those allegations go back years and overlap with the period covered in Gee’s complaint. That doesn’t corroborate her allegations, but it certainly leaves more room for credibility.

Adding to that credibility are as many as 19 other complaints about CBS, including 60 Minutes, filed with the EEOC over the same period as Gee:

A former “60 Minutes” producer accused her supervisors of sexual harassment in a complaint she filed last year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The producer’s complaint was one of 19 discrimination complaints logged with the federal agency against CBS between March 2015 and October 2016, according to a disclosure the company filed with the city. …

The CBS disclosure said three of the 19 complaints have been settled. One of the settled complaints involved unequal pay based on gender at a Dallas radio station.

Eight of the complaints remained open at the time of CBS’ filing.The eight other complaints were either dismissed and closed or they were closed after the statutory time to file a lawsuit expired.

Gee’s EEOC complaint was surely among these, but hardly alone. The 60 Minutes complaint included allegations of unethical journalistic behavior too, and the details of that complaint differ slightly from Gee’s, which was dismissed in March rather than January. The Daily News didn’t identify the producer last week, nor specify the “journalistic ethical violations,” but the latter would be especially interesting to see.

CBS has mostly avoided court action in these complaints. Those days may be coming to an end.