Former CBS4 reporter Gillen accuses station of age and gender discrimination in suit

Michele Gillen, a former investigative reporter for WFOR-CBS4, is pictured in 2000 with some of the regional Emmys she won during her career.
Michele Gillen, a former investigative reporter for WFOR-CBS4, is pictured in 2000 with some of the regional Emmys she won during her career. Miami Herald file

As an award-winning investigative reporter for CBS4, Michele Gillen used to shine a spotlight on misconduct in South Florida.

Now, after she was let go two years ago, Gillen has sued her former employer and accused ex-colleagues of age and gender discrimination along with bullying and harassment.

Among those she singles out in her federal lawsuit: CBS4 star investigative reporter and former Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede, though he is not named as a defendant. CBS4 is the Herald’s news partner.

DeFede declined to comment on Monday, but the station denied Gillen’s allegations.

Gillen, 63, who joined WFOR-TV as a news reporter in 1997 after working for another CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, says in a lawsuit that the culture of the newsroom was “toxic” toward women.

Her suit, filed Friday in Miami federal court, says it was “CBS’ practice that news beats and projects developed by Ms. Gillen were ignored or taken from her to be worked on by younger reporters or male reporters, while she, in turn, was assigned less desirable projects and was given little to no support in producing the assigned projects.”

In the suit, Gillen takes aim at DeFede, accusing him of making disparaging remarks to her and about women in general. She cites a CBS4 staff meeting in 2014 when DeFede, she claims, “began espousing false and humiliating accusations towards Ms. Gillen.”

At the meeting with her colleagues and boss, she says in the suit, DeFede declared that “he was done trying to figure out which of his stories will appeal and attract ‘women who are menstruating and watching Blue Bloods,’ ” in reference to a TV show starring Tom Selleck.

Gillen says that after she filed harassment claims with the company’s human resources department two years ago, she was removed as an anchor from her public-affairs show, “Focus on South Florida.” She ended her TV news career after being nominated for 46 regional Emmys and winning 25 of them.

Gillen, who is represented by a New York law firm, could not be reached for comment. She is seeking unspecified damages from her former employer, WFOR-TV and other CBS entities.

On Monday, CBS4 news director Liz Roldan declined to comment. General manager Adam Levy did not return a message seeking comment.

CBS Television Stations issued a statement: “We are confident that Michele Gillen was treated fairly when she worked for WFOR-TV, and station management’s decision to not renew her contract in 2016 was justified. Her claims are factually inaccurate and will not survive scrutiny.”