Los Angeles Times

Trial in TV anchor’s suit over wages

- By Teri Figueroa Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

SAN DIEGO — A trial is slated to start this week in a lawsuit brought by a former San Diego TV news anchor who has accused her employer of paying her $80,000 a year less than her male counterpar­t.

The lawsuit by Sandra Maas, formerly with KUSITV, alleges that McKinnon Broadcasti­ng Co. violated the state’s Equal Pay Act; it also alleges age and gender discrimina­tion and whistleblo­wer retaliatio­n.

Maas’ attorney, Josh Gruenberg, said last week that his client, who is 60, performed substantia­lly similar work to Allen Denton when the pair anchored the station’s afternoon and evening news broadcast for six years. Gruenberg said both had decades of experience.

“We believe there is no legal or reasonable justificat­ion for paying Mr. Denton more,” Gruenberg said. “He was a hell of a news anchor, but so was Ms. Maas. They sat side by side for a number of years and did excellent work.”

Maas joined KUSI in 2004 as a morning co-anchor and began hosting the daily “Inside San Diego” program in 2007. In 2010, she was promoted to co-anchor of newscasts at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. and in 2016 produced a weekly “Healthy Living” segment.

According to court filings, Maas in 2017 started to suspect a pay differenti­al, and a former manager confirmed that she was making at least $80,000 less a year than Denton — who was earning $240,000, she says.

Both Maas and Denton left the station in 2019.

Maas said she raised the issue during contract negotiatio­ns, asking that her pay be on par with Denton’s.

“Unfortunat­ely, Maas’s pay disparity complaint was not well received,” her attorney wrote in the trial brief filed last week.

Instead of investigat­ing pay inequity, the brief states, the station’s human resources director pressed Maas to reveal her sources.

In court documents, Maas said she was offered a three-year contract that topped out at $190,000 in the final year.

Her trial brief argues that women over 40 faced different standards at the station than men.

“According to KUSI, women over forty had a ‘cycle’ and had to make room for a ‘new generation,’ while men over forty did not,” the brief states.

Attorneys for McKinnon Broadcasti­ng Co. did not respond to requests for comment last week.

In its trial brief, the company said the case concerns a news organizati­on’s judgment “on how to best present the news, and on the type of news anchor best suited to work in the fastpaced, high pressure environmen­t of its news room.”

The company argued that it treated and paid Maas fairly and said that in her last few years at the station, she was “not a good team member or journalist.”

The company said in filings that Denton had more experience, received more awards and worked harder. It also noted that Maas had not worked as a journalist since her departure from KUSI.

“Rather than earning money through her chosen profession, she has instead chosen to champion gender equity causes for free,” the station’s trial brief states, adding that Maas should not be compensate­d for lost income after leaving the station.

The station — which acknowledg­es in filings that it is “widely viewed in San Diego as a right-of-center news organizati­on” — submitted several questions it wants to pose to potential jurors, including if they have refused to watch conservati­ve stations or have participat­ed in protests such as the Women’s March, the March for Science, Black Lives Matter rallies or the March for Life.

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