WTHR-Channel 13 and its parent company, TEGNA Inc., are facing a discrimination lawsuit filed by longtime anchor Andrea Morehead.
Morehead, an Anderson native who began working for WTHR in 1999, alleges the company failed to accommodate her following a breast cancer diagnosis in September 2018, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The latter prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, pregnancy and national origin.
Following her breast cancer diagnosis, which she shared publicly, the seven-time Emmy winner underwent daily radiation treatment through December 2018. Morehead shared her experience through her reporting. In February 2019, Morehead began immunotherapy, which can cause fatigue, fever, chills, weakness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, body aches and blood pressure irregularities, according to the lawsuit filed Jan. 13.
According to the lawsuit, Morehead had to take “considerable time” off work because of the side effects of her cancer treatment, but she continued to come up with story ideas, conduct interviews and edit stories, among other responsibilities.
Morehead’s attorney, Terrance Kinnard, could not be reached for an interview.
According to the suit, Morehead became aware of “a very disturbing conversation” between her colleagues, a $20 bet allegedly between four employees debating whether Morehead would return to work following her treatments.
The suit alleges while TEGNA managers were aware of this conversation and others, “no action was taken to admonish the participants and the behavior was allowed to continued unfettered.”
After Morehead discussed these issues — along with her health concerns — with WTHR general manager Michael Brouder, the suit claims he and other station managers “began a relentless campaign of harassment.”
Morehead’s complaints led to her stories being pulled from the air and credit for some story ideas being given to other WTHR employees, the lawsuit alleges. Further, it states WTHR management “persistently refused to provide production assistance to Andrea Morehead for interviews and logging tapes, even though the same assistance was provided to similarly-situated colleagues.” Eventually, after Morehead complained, she received the necessary accommodations.
The suit also alleges WTHR management disclosed confidential information about Morehead’s health to other anchors after shifts had to be adjusted to cover Joe Biden’s 2019 speech at the Indiana Convention Center.
While not directly related to her health, Morehead describes a hostile work environment. Specifically, the suit alleges a station photographer drove past Morehead after she was in a car accident, and the reporter in the car later told her the photographer refused to stop once he realized Morehead was involved.
Brouder did not reply to a request for comment.
While Morehead filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on May 27, 2020, Morehead was not let go from WTHR until December of that year, which the suit claims was a retaliatory discharge for Morehead filing the complaint.
Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association for Black Journalists, voiced her support for Morehead and implores companies to use this case as an example of what not to do.
“The Andrea Morehead case is disturbing on several levels,” Tucker said in a statement. “We first pray for her health and strength in dealing with both the physical, mental and financial aspects of her challenges. We will continue to monitor this case as it winds its way through the courts. We implore all companies to adhere to federal laws, privacy issues and best practice management protocols when dealing with such issues.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.