WTHR-TV Channel 13’s longtime news anchor Andrea Morehead alleged in a lawsuit filed last week that she was harassed and ill-treated for several years by colleagues and managers while leading a public battle against breast cancer.
“While thousands of WTHR viewers shared the support of Andrea Morehead, her staff made fun of her suffering and created an unsustainable work environment,” Terrance Kinnard wrote in a lawsuit filed Jan. 13 in Indianapolis District Court .
Morehead is still listed as one of the newscasters on the WTHR website, but Kinnard told IBJ that the broadcaster fired her in December. Morehead’s social media accounts continue to identify her as a WTHR employee.
Michael Brouder, general manager of WTHR, told IBJ that he was unable to comment on pending lawsuits. Through her lawyer, Morehead declined to comment.
The lawsuit alleges that WTHR and its parent company Tegna Inc. unlawfully discriminated against Morehead for a disability in violation of the Disabled Americans Act. She looks for unspecified claims for damages and punitive damages, lost wages, legal fees and other compensation.
“The lawsuit is self-explanatory. She stands by every word, ”said Kinnard when he was contacted by phone on Sunday. “Mrs. Morehead is looking forward to her day in court.” Her lawsuit also asserts ADA retaliatory and retaliatory claims.
In May 2018, Morehead publicly announced that she had been diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer the previous month, which she then described as “aggressive,” and that she would be undergoing chemotherapy. Then, in October, WTHR.com posted a video in which Morehead said she was “cancer free” after 20 weeks of treatments and surgeries.
The suit states that Morehead’s colleagues often made fun of her after the diagnosis, although it gives different dates for Morehead’s disease than she had publicly disclosed. The suit said she was diagnosed in September 2018 and underwent radiation treatment that ended in December.
Kinnard did not immediately return a message asking for clarification on the data.
The suit said Morehead had immunotherapies from February 2019 to February 2020 to prevent the cancer from recurring, which often kept her away from work. The suit suggests that common immunotherapy side effects include fatigue, body pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
The lawsuit said the ongoing struggle in health care made them the bum of office jokes. It is alleged that she learned in February 2020 that two employees and two managers were betting $ 20 on whether she would return to work after the treatments were over.
“Such conversations were common in Andrea Morehead’s work environment and clearly made fun of Andrea Morehead’s unfortunate cancer diagnosis and the treatment she was receiving,” Kinnard wrote in the lawsuit. “Although Tegna managers were present at these talks, no action was taken to warn the participants and the behavior was allowed to continue unhindered.”
The lawsuit alleged that Morehead provided Tegna management with personal medical information to explain their requests for leave from work and to excuse treatment-related delays or absences. Thereafter, the station managers carried out a “relentless harassment campaign”.
Morehead said the discriminatory treatment had expanded to include the ideas of the story she put up and worked to get on the air.
“Some of Andrea Morehead’s stories and ideas have been postponed or ignored entirely,” wrote Kinnard. “Sometimes management just renamed Andrea Morehead’s story ideas and took credit for Andrea Morehead’s story ideas.”
In one incident, the lawsuit said, Morehead told her superiors that she couldn’t work double shifts to interview then-former Vice President Joe Biden in July 2019.
Morehead claimed managers, in turn, shared details of their cancer treatments with employees, which she wanted to keep private.
Originally from Anderson, Morehead joined WTHR in 1999 and has won seven Emmy Awards according to her biography on WTHR.com. She has covered major world events including the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009 and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
The case before Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the US District Court for the Southern Indiana District is Andrea Morehead v Tegna Inc., 1: 21-cv-86.
– Indiana Lawyer contributed to this report.