With details that would be any parent’s worst nightmare, WarnerMedia and Turner Sports might find themselves truly behind the eight ball if a discrimination complaint from once-prominent anchor Casey Stern gains traction.
“Over the course of the last two years, Casey Stern has been put through his own personal hell, the likes of which no person should ever be forced to endure,” declares the charge against the AT&T-owned entities filed Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the plaintiff’s gender and child care responsibilities (read it here).
“Beginning in about December 2018 and persisting through February 2020, Mr. Stern’s three young children were subjected to heinous child abuse at the hands of their own mother, Mr. Stern’s ex-wife Shanon Stern, as well as Ms. Stern’s boyfriend, Alexander Soriano,” the pretty explicit document goes on to say. “The abuse became so prevalent and vicious that the children began wearing backpacks around the house in preparation to run away.”
After apparently getting little help from the authorities and instigating private investigation of his own, Stern got the children back early last year. The anchor’s ex-wife and her boyfriend were arrested in February. Out on bail and awaiting trial because of Covid-19 delays, the duo has been charged with 15 felonies, including with five counts of first-degree child cruelty.
However, in the meantime, Stern saw his high-profile on-air duties symmetrically cut back, the complaint alleges, and eventually he was told late last year that his contract won’t be renewed.
“To make matters worse, the Company has informed Mr. Stern that, even though it will not be using him for anything anymore, he is not be permitted to seek work in his chosen field until August 2021 (when his contract expires) unless he releases the Company of liability for its unlawful conduct,” the EEOC complaint states of the anchor who has been a mainstay on NBA, MLB and NCAA coverage since 2016.
Which has brought Stern and his Wigdor LLP attorneys to filing the discrimination charge. Deadline reached out to WarnerMedia for a response to the complaint, but the company said it doesn’t “comment on pending legal matters.”
The media giant may be quiet, but Stern’s complaint makes it very clear management at the company weren’t seemingly so quiet when it came to Stern’s situation.
“In one particularly offensive incident, John O’Connor, NBA TV’s Executive Producer, responded to an accommodation request by suggesting that Mr. Stern was using his children – who were being beaten by his ex-wife and her boyfriend – as an ‘excuse’ to avoid work assignments. Specifically, Mr. O’Connor said, ‘When are you going to stop using this’ family situation as an excuse?” the paperwork claims.
“These statements, which are only examples, make clear that the Company believed that Mr. Stern, as a man, was expected to place his job above his family – regardless of the fact that Mr. Stern’s children were the victims of severe domestic abuse.”
Spreading around recent cases of alleged abusive environments or “poor treatment” at The Ellen DeGeneres Show and TMZ, lawyer Michael J. Willemin certainly seeks to paint a big picture in the complaint of the Jason Kilar-run company as a “toxic” workplace. “The Company’s cruelty cannot be overstated, nor is it an isolated incident,” the EEOC filing says of Atlanta-based Stern’s case.
“Rather, the treatment of Mr. Stern is just the latest example of what has become commonplace practice at WarnerMedia and its subsidiaries.”
First signed to an on-air contract with Turner Sports in about five years ago, former and current radio host Stern saw the deal extended two more years in 2019.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.