NBCUniversal Heading To Trial In Age Discrimination Case From Award-Winning Ex-KNBC Producer

By Dominic Patten

It’s looking more and more certain that Frank Snepp is going to get the trial he wants against NBCUniversal and Comcast. A L.A. Superior Court Judge today refused the media giant’s best efforts to have the Emmy and Peabody-winning journalist’s nearly 2-year old age discrimination case thrown out. That means the November 2 jury trial start date is still on the calendar – and approaching probably too fast for Comcast.

The former CIA analyst first filed suit on October 1, 2013 claiming that he had been pink slipped from LA affiliate KNBC the year before due to his age. Hired by the station in 2005 at the age of 61 as an investigative reporter and producer, Snepp was canned on October 1, 2012. In his 2013 lawsuit, the then 70-year old journalist claims that the tone and leadership really changed at KNBC after Comcast announced its acquisition of NBCUniversal in late 2009.

Judge Stephen Moloney said in a motion for summary judgment hearing on Friday that Snepp had provided enough evidence that a “discriminatory motive” was a factor to be able to move forward to a wrongful termination trial. NBC claims Snepp was let go from KNBC because he was no good at his job. Which is a very odd thing to say about a guy who helped bring the very prestigious Peabody to the station soon after joining them in May 2005.

Snepp also alleged in his 2013 filing that he was punished for being “outspoken” and complaining about the treatment older employees were subjected to. “Plaintiff was replaced by investigative reporter(s) either under 40 or who were substantially younger than he,” said the complaint that also sought unspecified damages for retaliation as well as the claim of discrimination against Comcast, NBCUniversal, NBC News and NBC 4 (AKA KNBC). Snepp claimed that his direct supervisors knew of his complaints to human resources at KNBC and decided to finally fire him because of it. That part the judge wasn’t having and trimmed it from the case. “No evidence is presented to support knowledge by the decision makers of any protected activity asserted by Plaintiff,” said Judge Moloney’s ruling today.

Last August, Snepp filed a very similar second wrongful discrimination suit against basically the same parties. At the time, it looked like his first case might have come to a quick end. But that didn’t happen and it didn’t happen again today.

A protective order hearing is set in the matter on September 21 and then a Final Status conference on October 22. If they go to plan and Comcast and NBCU don’t make any more significant filing, there’s going to be a trial starting 11 days later. Of course, doubt KNBC will have their cameras in there filming the proceedings.