Over six-months after being pink slipped by E! Entertainment and NBCUniversal, ex-Talent Development and Casting SVP Blythe Asher today hit the media giant and its owner Comcast with a jury seeking age discrimination and wrongful termination suit.
“In 2016, for the first time during her employment with E! and after having battled cancer, Asher received a significantly lower performance evaluation,” the seven-claim complaint filed Thursday in L.A. Superior Court says of Asher’s experience at E!, where she had worked in a celeb interacting position since 2009. “The lower rating incontestably coincided with her cancer diagnosis,” the filing adds (read it here). “On February 9, 2016, Asher received notice from NBCU Media that her ‘services were no longer required.’”
“During plaintiff’s employment with defendants, defendants, through their supervisors, engaged in actions that had a negative impact on the treatment of employees who were more than 40 years old,” Asher’s wide ranging but basically unspecified damages seeking complaint also asserts. “Specifically, defendants discharged older employees with greater frequency than younger employees, hired fewer employees who were older than 40, and gave better jobs and benefits to younger employees.”
Asher is seeking more than $25,000 for the supposedly “malicious, despicable, oppressive” conduct of the defendants. “We don’t comment on personnel matters,” an E! spokesperson told Deadline in response to today’s lawsuit.
Having been promoted to SVP in the June of 2013, the self-described “well known and well respected executive” had been fighting an on and off battle with breast cancer since the summer of 2014. As her complaint filed by Carney Shegerain and Anthony Nguyen of Santa Monica firm Shergerian & Associates states the illness had taken a toll on her health and left her with “a sickly appearance.”
Being that her “outward appearance was paramount to her employment” and she dealt with a number of creative and executives routinely Asher feels she was canned. Even with her seemingly recovery from cancer and return to her regular specially when she was diagnosed with lymphedema in her arm in late 2015 and suffered from significant swelling.
“In response to her appearance, Jeff Olde, E!’s executive vice president, Programming & Development, suggested that she wear a poncho to cover her arm,” the 18-page filing alleges. “Asher was shocked, offended, and embarrassed by the insensitive comment.”
Olde is not named as a defendant in the suit but E! Entertainment TV are along with NBCUniversal Cable Media. Also named are NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group, NBCUniversal itself and owner Comcast.
It’s worth noting that what Asher alleges displays similar language to what we’ve seen in past age discrimination suits against NBCU-owned entities by fired employees. We’ve also seen these suits have a lesser than golden success record. Back in late 2015, Award winning former KNBC reporter Frank Snepp saw his long running age discrimination suit against NBC News suffer a mistrial.
“During trial due in part to the press coverage we have learned even more about NBC’s discriminatory conduct towards its older employees,” said Snepp’s attorney Suzelle M. Smith in December 2015 when the mistrial was declared.
In the Asher case, it’s now the Comcast units response that will determine where this goes next.