The federal lawsuit filed in Houston, Texas, alleges that KBTX targeted French in early 2013 because of his age and because he was placed in inpatient hospital care due to exhaustion and depression following overwork over the 2012 Christmas and New Year’s holidays. French alleges that employees under the age of 40 were allowed time-off while French was not. While away on FMLA leave that would protect his job until his return, the lawsuit alleges that French was reprimanded for the effects of his exhaustion and depression and KBTX openly sought to replace him. In what KBTX General Manager Mike Wright referred to as a “coincidence,” KBTX advertised an open meteorologist position at the same time Bob French was away from work on protected medical leave, according to the suit.
Bob French’s return to work on air was short lived as within days after his return, French was fired from KBTX in July 2013 and was replaced by Shel Winkley, a weathercaster under 40 years of age and without a disability, according to the suit.
French had previously filed a charge of Age and Disability Discrimination as well as Retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The charge named KBTX and its parent company, Gray Television Group, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, as respondents. The EEOC investigation was completed and notification of right to sue was mailed on May 29, 2014 prompting the filing of the federal lawsuit by French.
Bob French is represented by Houston Employment Lawyer Charles H. Peckham.
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Bob French was employed by a written contract that governed his activities at the station. According to the contract, French could not be terminated without cause. Bob French claims that none of the reasons given for his termination from employment were “for cause,” but instead were for illegal reasons related to his age, disability and in retaliation for having taken FMLA leave.