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Former News Anchor Wins $8.3M for Sex, Age Discrimination

Former news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh was awarded $8.3 million in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination based on sex and age. The jury rejected the plaintiff’s claim of age discrimination, but agreed with her claim of sex discrimination and violation of contract.

Peckinpaugh was replaced by a younger woman and demoted to a position that paid less than 1/5 of her former $250,000 salary as anchor of WFSB’s main newscasts and ruined her chances of career advancement or similar employment elsewhere.

Peckinpaugh alleged that two factors contributed to her demotions. First, she testified that former co-anchor Al Terzi inappropriately groped her and pressured WFSB to fire or demote her after she complained. Second, she testified that she, like other middle-aged women in television, was fired because she no longer looked like a twenty-year-old. Peckinpaugh’s counsel noted that male newscasters were not subject to the same expectations of a perpetually youthful appearance, using Terzi, who happens to be a 56 six-year-old man with gray hair, as an example.

WFSB management denied Peckinpaugh’s charges and characterized the case as a simple contract dispute. Terzi has also denied Peckinpaugh’s allegations of sexual harassment, saying that the touch in dispute was a “fraternal hug.”

“It’s accepted that it’s desirable to have a man and a young woman paired up as co-anchors. I think stations will think twice about that now before making those decisions,” commented Peckinpaugh.

Fox News’ Eleanor Clift commented on the decision, saying, “The American people recognize the basic unfairness of holding her up to a cosmetic standard that the other gender doesn’t have to meet. The second wave of women in journalism, the one that came after Barbara Walters, Pauline Fredericks and Nancy Dickerson, is larger and is not going to go off into that good night when they hit some milestone birthday.”

Sources:

Nando Times - January 29, Hartford Courant - January 29, and New York Times - January 26, 1999

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