More than three years after a San Diego news anchor claimed she was fired for seeking equal pay to her male co-anchor, her multi-million dollar suit will begin jury selection Monday.
(Video: CBS 8)
In 2019, Sandra Maas was working alongside Allen Denton at KUSI, an independent television station in San Diego, California owned by McKinnon Broadcasting Company (MBC). After 15 years with the company, in June of that year she signed off for the last time saying, “though I won’t be delivering the news anymore from this anchor chair, I do hope to be making news and making a difference for women in the workplace.”
Thank you and farewell to all the KUSI viewers who have watched and supported me for the past 15 years. I’ll miss delivering the news to you. On to the next adventure… #KUSINews pic.twitter.com/PdgsGmEzJB
— Sandra Maas (@SandraMaas) June 17, 2019
At the time, she filed suit against the broadcasting company alleging that she was getting paid roughly $90,000 less annually than Denton, reportedly making $250,000, despite them doing the same job, and sought $10 million in damages accusing her employer of violating California’s Equal Pay Act.
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, “Under the Equal Pay Act, as amended effective January 1, 2019, an employer may not justify any pay difference between employees of the opposite sex, or employees of different race or ethnicity based on an employee’s prior salary.”
In speaking with CBS 8, whom she had worked for prior to KUSI, Maas said, “I’m relieved this day is finally here. It’s scary. It’s stressful. I feel betrayed. It has been three and a half years since I lost my job that I loved, and was devoted to, and dedicated my life to because I was fighting for equal pay.”
Her attorney, Josh Gruenberg, also spoke to the outlet and said, “Sandra was underpaid for doing the same job as her male co-anchor for a number of years. We have an equal pay act in California and intend to put some teeth into it.”
However, according to documents filed by the broadcasting company’s legal team, Maas may not be entirely forthcoming about alleged pay discrepancies.
For one, she alleged in her deposition that she was forced to take “inadequate pay” because her family’s financial situation relied on her income.
The MBC lawyers wrote to California Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier that that was far from the case as “Her family is affluent. They live in Carmel Valley and she drives a Mercedes. Her husband is a bank CFO. … They sent their children to expensive private schools. … They socialize in the milieu of wealthy residents of Rancho Sante Fe, Del Mar and La Jolla, and they attend lavish charity fundraising lunches and dinners.”
Furthermore, according to the trial brief reported by the Times of San Diego, the attorneys for the defense said “For at least the last few years of her tenure as a KUSI news anchor, Maas was not a good team member or a dedicated journalist.”
“She worked far fewer hours than the male anchors. … She often arrived on set just barely in time to tape news breaks and go on air live to present the nightly news, causing problems for producers, news floor staff, writers, and co-workers,” they went on, suggesting she was a slacker with nothing but bad things to say about her employer.
As for a particular opportunity that Denton was provided to cover the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, the broadcasters asserted that Maas had made her negative attitude toward the businessman-turned-Republican leader quite clear and that gender was not a factor.
Since her case centers on the California Equal Pay Act, it is important to note that there are stipulations that would allow for discrepancies as it states, “An employer may make a compensation decision based on a current employee’s existing salary, however, any wage differential resulting from the compensation decision must be justified by one or more of the factors listed,” which included, “seniority; merit; a system that measures production; and/or a ‘bona fide factor other than sex, race, or ethnicity.'”
The current suit is requesting unspecified damages for past and future lost wages, punitive damages, and damages related to any past and future mental and emotional distress.
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