In February 2013, veteran traffic reporter Tammy Dombeck Campbell had been filling in at Dallas’ CBS affiliate, KTVT News, as a freelancer.
More than a year-and-a-half later, in October 2014, the station’s full-time morning traffic reporter resigned, and KTVT NEWS — known locally as CBS 11 — began searching for a replacement.
The station’s job announcement noted that its ideal candidate would have the following:
- On-air traffic reporting experience
- “Strong knowledge of local traffic in the Dallas/Fort Worth area”
- At least five years of professional broadcasting experience
Campbell, who had worked 12 years as a full-time traffic reporter for rival station NBC 5 — earning her the nickname “Gridlock Buster” with local fans — applied for the CBS 11 position and told managers she was interested in the job. She also continued to fill in as the station’s morning traffic reporter after the full-time staffer resigned.
But CBS 11 didn’t hire her.
Instead, the news station chose a much younger applicant who did not meet the qualifications posted in the station’s own job listing, according to a statement by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, alleging the station violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The ADEA was passed in 1967 and prohibits employers from using age to discriminate against those who are 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40.
- Over the last 20 years, age-related-discrimination charges filed with the EEOC steadily increased until a peak in 2008, and have gradually decreased since.
- According to the commission’s records, 20,857 ADEA-related-charges were filed with the EEOC last year.
- In 2008, there were 24,582 age-related-discrimination charges filed with the commission.
- Of the EEOC age-discrimination cases that reached a resolution last year, less than 7 percent was settled.
In December 2014, CBS 11 offered the job to a 27-year-old applicant who accepted the position, then she ended up withdrawing her application before she started. The suit alleges this applicant had neither broadcast experience in the Dallas/Fort Worth area nor “strong knowledge” of local traffic.
Meanwhile, CBS 11 resumed its search and asked Campbell to continue filling in as the morning traffic reporter on a freelance basis. Campbell agreed — and once again told managers she would be interested in the full-time job.
After the second search, the station passed on Campbell once again, this time hiring a 24-year-old woman who did not have five years of professional broadcasting experience or any broadcast experience in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, according to the EEOC.
“Tammy Campbell was clearly qualified for the position of traffic reporter,” EEOC senior trial attorney Joel Clark said in a statement. “We are confident that the station’s ratings were favorable during the time that she filled in as the morning traffic reporter. But the station clearly preferred a younger face and a less-qualified applicant based on unfounded stereotypes about female reporters in broadcast television.”
A spokesman for CBS Stations Group of Texas, a division of the New York-based CBS Corp. that owns and operates KTVT, denied the allegations outlined in the complaint.
“KTVT respectfully disagrees with the EEOC’s current assessment and looks forward to resolving this matter,” CBS spokesman Mike Nelson told The Washington Post in an email.
Now 44, Campbell was 42 when she applied for the job, according to the suit.
“All the girls they auditioned for this job were in their 20s,” Campbell told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2015. “I didn’t have a chance. Frustrating.”
In an interview Tuesday with Ed Bark, a former TV critic at the Dallas Morning News, Campbell described the ordeal as “humiliating, extremely upsetting and unfair.” She added that, despite several co-workers telling her she had suffered “blatant age discrimination,” she was simply going to let it go — until her husband convinced her to move forward with a complaint.