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Former KCTV Anchor Karen Fuller Settles Her Discrimination Lawsuit Against Meredith Corp.

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KGAN

Former KCTV Channel 5 anchor Karen Fuller has settled her age and discrimination lawsuit against the station’s owner, Meredith Corp.

The settlement was reached just before the case was set to go to trial in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, next month.

A court filing on Monday said attorneys for the parties had “settled and compromised the claims in this lawsuit” and that the case was being terminated.

Terms of the settlement were confidential. Both Fuller’s and Meredith’s attorneys declined to comment on the settlement. Meredith and Fuller did not respond to requests for comment.

Fuller, now an anchor for the CBS affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, filed her lawsuit two-and-a-half years ago. She alleged that Meredith had created an “age ceiling” for its female anchors but not for its male anchors.

Fuller was a news anchor at KCTV from 2003 to 2015, when she was abruptly let go. She was 47 at the time.

According to her lawsuit, the average age of female anchors at Meredith's 17 TV stations across the country is 40; the average age of its male anchors is 51.

KCTV claimed Fuller was terminated because of poor on-air and off-air performance, even though her contract had been renewed numerous times and her performance appraisals had been positive.

Meredith is facing at least two other age discrimination lawsuits, both in Nashville. One was brought by a longtime and popular anchor in that city who worked for Meredith’s NBC affiliate in that city for 33 years before she was fired two years ago. She was 58 at the time.

The other lawsuit was filed by two other reporters and a meteorologist at the same station.

Fuller’s case got a boost in August when U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum declined to throw out her lawsuit, finding she’d produced sufficient evidence for the case to proceed.

Lungstrum cited remarks made by KCTV managers as evidence they were looking for a younger anchor to replace Fuller. For example, after viewing a video of the work of Ellen McNamara, who was ultimately hired to replace Fuller, the news director said, “She has a nice Midwestern ‘hometown girl’ look.”

And the station’s creative director said about McNamara’s appearance: “She can be cute and young but also able to dress up and be more serious and respectable … How will she age I wonder?”

Another discrimination lawsuit by a local TV reporter, Lisa Benson Cooper, is set to go to trial next month.

Cooper, who went by Lisa Benson and is African American, originally sued KSHB Channel 41 for race discrimination, alleging she was consistently sent to the urban core for her stories and had been denied promotions since joining the station in 2004.

The suit was amended recently after KSHB fired Cooper, who had continued working at the station. According to her complaint, she was told she had created a “hostile work environment” after she shared an article on her personal Facebook page by an Australian journalist about systemic racism.

Cooper is represented by Dennis Egan, who represented former KMBC-TV Channel 9 anchor Christine Craft nearly four decades ago. KMBC fired Craft, who was 37, after focus group research indicated she was “too old, too unattractive and wouldn’t defer to men,” according to Craft’s lawsuit. Craft claimed that female anchors were judged by different standards than male anchors.

A jury awarded Craft $500,000 but the judge threw out the award and ordered a retrial. On retrial, she won $325,000 but that award was overturned on appeal.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

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