Michael was co-anchor of KCBS-TV Channel 2’s newscasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. for more than three years. The Emmy Award-winning anchor joined KCBS in early 2017 after nearly two decades of working as an anchor at Fox’s KTTV Channel 11. Before that, he was a crime reporter for KABC-TV Channel 7.
Michael was part of a May purge by the station, a company-wide cutback after the ViacomCBS merger that saw him dismissed along with anchors Sandra Mitchell and Sharon Tay and meteorologist Garth Kemp. KCBS said at the time that the staff cuts were caused by the pandemic and by “the ongoing and transformative changes in the media industry,” according to a statement.
“These were difficult decisions to make and we understand Jeff Michael’s disappointment over the elimination of his position,” the station said. “That said, we firmly believe his claims are entirely without merit and we are prepared to defend against these accusations.”
Michael was hired as a morning news anchor at $260,000 a year, with an increase to $275,000 in the third and final year of the contract.
According to the lawsuit, the contract said if Michael were to be reassigned from the morning to the evening newscasts, he could renegotiate. Michael was moved to evenings in October 2018, but no renegotiation followed.
When Michael approached general manager Steve Mauldin in January 2019 about the renegotiation, he allegedly was told to wait until after sweeps were completed. But Mauldin later announced he would be leaving the station and thus had no authority to renegotiate.
The stress of the situation saw Michael making an emergency visit to Huntington Hospital in April 2019 because of heart problems. He stayed there overnight for observation.
After that incident, new general manager Jay Howell refused a new agreement, according to the suit. It claimed Howell refused because of the Michael health problem.
“Because Plaintiff did not enjoy the benefit of a renegotiated Agreement (which would have extended the term of his employment), Plaintiff was thereafter callously discarded by CBS, and his employment terminated in May 2020 — despite having continued to work to inform the public during the COVID crisis, at great risk to his life and personal safety,” the suit states.
Read the court filing here.
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