CBS Studios said that a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former top reality executive is “without merit,” and claims that the executive, Ghen Maynard, was not terminated but that his contract was not renewed.
Maynard, who developed such hits as Survivor and The Amazing Race, filed a lawsuit against the network on Monday, claiming age and race discrimination. He also claimed that the network conducted a biased investigation into “a false and ludicrous allegation that he mistreated a female coworker on the writing team.” The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and names CBS Studios and parent CBS Corp. as defendant.
In response to the lawsuit (read it here), a CBS spokesperson said, “Mr. Maynard’s contract was not renewed due to the elimination of the Studio’s alternative programming department. The claims in this suit are completely without merit, and we will defend against it vigorously.”
Maynard returned to CBS in 2016 to launch a new unscripted department at a production arm of the company, CBS TV Studios.
Among his projects was BH90210, a revival of Beverly Hills 90210, and a deal to bring Tiffany Haddish in to host a revival of Kids Say The Darndest Things. He also sold a crime reality series, Whistleblower.
In the lawsuit, Maynard describes the successes he had in his post but getting the cold shoulder from his boss, David Stapf, the president of CBS Studios, as well as two top executives at CBS Entertainment, Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman.
The lawsuit says that “when Mr. Maynard took Kids Say the Darndest Things with Tiffany Haddish to market, he generated a bidding war between the three other broadcast networks (ABC, Fox, and NBC), yet still received no response from CBS, who had heard the pitch first, directly from Mr. Maynard and the production team, until he finally reached the most junior executive in the room, who said they had not yet even discussed the pitch. It was only after hearing about the other offers that CBS made an offer, via Mr. Stapf, for a one-time special, but still never calling Mr. Maynard directly as would be customary.”
Maynard claims that he finally asked Stapf “why CBS Entertainment was so disrespectful and condescending,” and Stapf “confirmed their behavior and told Mr. Maynard that Messrs. Kahl and Sherman were ‘threatened’ by him, in addition to various other personal remarks about them. Indeed, Mr. Sherman never returned Mr. Maynard’s calls, and would disparage the shows he developed behind his back to other executives.”
His lawsuit points out that CBS’s top circle “includes no women and no representation of minorities.” At meetings, the lawsuit states, Maynard was the “only minority leader with any real authority ‘at the table.'” His litigation points out that another minority executive, Angelica McDaniel, the executive vice president of daytime programs at CBS Entertainment, was terminated in September in a restructuring and replaced by Amy Reisenbach, who is white.
Maynard’s lawsuit claims that the network mistreated him “for some time,” but most especially after the departure of Les Moonves, who had been one of Maynard’s supporters. Moonves resigned last year in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Since Mr. Moonves’ departure, CBS has become a radically different place,” the lawsuit states. “Despite blaming all of its problems on Mr. Moonves and claiming that it has taken steps to improve race and gender issues at the Company, today’s CBS ‘leaders,’ those making the key decisions on such issues, are all white males, whose decisions belie CBS’ self-serving rhetoric.”
In the suit, Maynard claims that he was subject to an internal investigation after an allegation that he mistreated a female coworker “when he asked a quiet male employee on the same team for his opinions during a meeting,” as opposed to asking for her opinion. She had already spoken “extensively,” Maynard claims. Other allegations were that he “did not say hello to the same female coworker during an elevator ride ‘in the same way’ that he said hello to male coworkers, and asked a question relevant to the funding of writer positions on the team.”
Maynard said that he was interviewed by Tim Farrell, the vice president of Human Resources, as part of the investigation. Farrell “initially told Mr. Maynard that he did not believe the allegations would be of serious impact, some time went by before Mr. Maynard was informed of the Company’s contrived conclusion.” Eventually, according to the lawsuit, Maynard “was not found to have violated CBS policy,” but Farrell “let it slip” that Stapf would remove him from BH90210.
Maynard said that he asked Ferrell if anyone had interviewed any female witnesses who would testify in his favor. Farrell, though, told him they had not.
“After a few weeks, Mr. Farrell called Mr. Maynard and told him that HR would not be conducting any further investigation into the matter, nor would it be speaking with Mr. Maynard’s proposed female witnesses,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Farrell told Mr. Maynard that the decision to remove him from his own show would stand.”
On Oct. 2, Stapf told Maynard that he would be terminated and his department eliminated, according to the lawsuit. His final day is scheduled to be Dec. 2.
Maynard’s return to CBS in 2016 was his third stint at the network. He also was an executive at NBC, where he developed shows like Heroes and My Name Is Earl.
His attorney, Harmeet K. Dhillon, said in a statement that her client had hoped not to have to file this lawsuit,” but “CBS’ refusal to accept responsibility for its toxic culture and its attempts to silence him have forced him to pursue his claims in court. We trust that this lawsuit will be resolved in Mr. Maynard’s favor, and that CBS will take meaningful steps to remedy its management failures in promoting, retaining, recognizing, and treating its top talent of all backgrounds, with respect and fairness.”