Kyle Hunter, a television weatherman, has sued CBS for sex and age discrimination for what he claims is an overriding preference given to young attractive women to give the weather forecasts. We have followed this controversy in earlier stories over whether attractive looks can be an appropriate (even an overriding) criteria for anchors, waitresses, or other professions. Hunter insists that he encountered a cold front at every term.
What is different about this lawsuit is that we have previously seen women anchors sue over such discrimination.
Hunter was a weatherman for Fox5 in San Diego but says that his gender and age has effectively barred him from the air. He is suing for unfair discrimination under California employment law on the basis of gender.
However, he alleges that he was only passed over twice for positions. He alleges that he was not even given an interview for either job despite strong credentials. Yet, his complaint insists that the stations “only want attractive young women, and only attractive young women, broadcasting the weather.”
This issue has long intrigued me. Most anchors and television personalities are attractive people. They are often revealed to abroad as mere “news readers.” It seems an act of tremendous willful blindness to ignore that looks are an obvious advantage for such work. Hunter himself is attractive and likely was preferred to less striking candidates in his earlier positions. The question is whether restaurants, news organizations, and shops should be able to openly hire people for their looks or gender as better for business. Actors and actresses are picked for their looks to pull people into theaters. Why can’t television studios do the same? Anchor positions and other television spots have never gone to the most qualified journalists . . . hence the expression “I have a face for radio.”
The obvious concern is a slippery slope. If a business can prefer women to work at Victoria’s Secret, can they openly prefer attractive young women or bar types of religious garb? What about restaurants like Hooter’s that draw customers in part on the promise of young attractive waitresses? We have seen such lawsuits even from strippers who are hired entirely for their looks.
We have long recognized the existence of bona fide employment qualifications, but we have danced around questions over whether businesses can prefer attractiveness and gender as more compelling images for attracting customers.
In the case of on-air forecasters, they are hired for their skills but work with a larger staff and often repeated independently generated data. They, like other television personalities, are expected to “connect” with viewers, particularly among the critical demographic audience. However, if you accept this reality, you must face the question of social judgments that differentiate between gender. Women anchors have long objected that studios reflect a social preference for younger women but not necessarily younger male anchors.
The one thing that is clear is that such judgments should never be applied to law professors where we only improve with age like fine wine.
While CBS is denying such discrimination, it is widely viewed as the standard in the industry. No one would argue that Chelsea Clinton was renewed as a journalist with NBC based on her skills or experience or perceived talents. She was renewed because she was a celebrity draw from the right demographic niche.
What do you think about the right of studios to such criteria as age and gender in selecting television personalities?
Of course, younger weathermen might need a bit of maturing in the job:
Source: Daily Mail