Former NBC Boston reporter sues for sex discrimination; says her downfall accelerated when another reporter who hated her objected to being seated near her in the newsroom
Karen Hensel, who worked as an investigative reporter at NBC Boston from its start in 2016 until she was fired n 2019, today filed a sex discrimination suit against the station, accusing it of firing her over her relationship with the police chief of a Worcester suburb when other newsroom employees were getting away with the same thing or worse, except they were men - and of ignoring an unending barrage of harassment by one of her fellow investigative reporters.
In her suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, Hensel paints a picture of a newsroom where she was made to pay for the sin of being a woman while a male producer was able to sleep with an on-air reporter, at least until the reporter's husband showed up one day for a newsroom confrontation.
Hensel said her problems started almost immediately on her arrival at NBC Boston and NECN from Indianapolis, when she was paired with "Jane Doe," another investigative reporter she charges hated and harassed her:
The sexually-hostile work environment at NBC10-Boston was primarily perpetuated by Jane Doe, another female investigative reporter and co-worker employed by defendants. Ms. Doe’s conduct and actions were designed and intended to interfere with plaintiff’s work performance and career success in an effort to make Ms. Doe stand out as the leading female investigative reporter at the station. ...
As early as 2017, station management at NBC10-Boston and plaintiff's supervisors expressly recognized Ms. Doe's sexually harassing behavior toward plaintiff and others when her manager wrote in Ms. Doe's performance appraisal: "Team dynamics can often be a challenge. A big focus of the new year for the unit should be to build relationships."
Plaintiff's 2017 and 2018 performance evaluations were both overwhelmingly positive. In her 2017 employee evaluation, plaintiff's manager wrote: "Karen has been a driving force in getting the Investigators' unit off the ground. Her story-telling technique has really set a nice tone for the unit."
Hensel, who now works at WSVN in Miami - WHDH's sister station - says she complained repeatedly, but managers did nothing.
Hensel alleges the other woman eventually told one of the investigative unit's producers that Hensel was dating the police chief in Auburn - and that he in turn alerted their supervisor, even though he didn't know why Doe was telling him that and that he knew she hated Hensel. In any case, by February 2019, "at least three members of NBC10-Boston station management were aware of plaintiff’s relationship with a local Police Chief," the complaint alleges.
From February 2019 through defendants’ offer of a second three-year employment agreement to plaintiff in July 2019, defendants and NBC10-Boston station management raised no issues or concerns whatsoever regarding plaintiff’s personal relationship with a local Police Chief.
But then, Hensel continues, her rival's hatred grew even deeper when the station moved to a new building and management put their desks too close together. So, Hensel alleges, the woman filed an anonymous complaint with NBC corporate about Hensel dating the chief. Management told Hensel she'd have to file a form conflict-of-interest disclaimer, which she said she did and that she never denied dating the chief of a town the station normally never covered.
Hensel said that at the second of two meetings, her boss - then News Director Ben Dobson - and an HR person agreed she was allowed to keep dating the guy and that her boss even saw a possible advantage to the relationship in the unlikely even anything newsworthy actually happen in Auburn:
Mr. Dobson then encouraged plaintiff to continue to maintain her personal relationship with a local Police Chief with the explicit instruction not to “turn off the spigot of information” when it came to tips she may be able to pass along to the NBC10-Boston news desk.
But three days later, she says, Dobson fired her on the grounds that she violated NBC policy by not formally alerting her managers to her potential conflict of dating a police chief.
And yet, she continues, men with even worse problems were allowed to just carry on:
Upon information and belief, a male assistant news director of the NBC10-Boston management team did not disclose that he was involved in a personal relationship with a subordinate NBC10-Boston female on-air journalist until that relationship came to light by way of (1) anonymous complaints to NBC10-Boston and/or NBCU; and (2) a reported confrontation at the station involving the male assistant and the spouse of the on-air journalist.
The assistant news director (who directly supervised the on-air journalist) was not terminated from his employment, let alone subjected to progressive discipline, despite (1) defendants' termination of plaintiff; and (2) NBCU's Conflicts of Interest guidelines directing employees to refrain from making "any employment decisions regarding a family member or close personal relationship (including hiring, promoting or directly supervising)."
The assistant news director not only failed to disclose his own personal relationship, but also engaged in an actual conflict of interest where he had the ability to influence NBC10- Boston decisions relating to employment that involved a subordinate with whom he was involved in a personal relationship.
As amends for the sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation she alleges she suffered, Hensel is seeking unspecified damages, costs and attorneys' fees.
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This needs a full
This needs a full investgation. The kind they do on those 42 second news spots
police chief relationship ?
is this like the ime udoka investigation. what is wrong with dating a police officer who is not even employed at the station ?
whats our fascination with policing peeples genitalia in the work site.
Something is missing here
This seems like one of those "more to the story" kind of lawsuit.
One question I would have is why file three years later?
let there not be more to the story. Much less of it, please.