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…And Now A Report On “Reverse” Discrimination: Hicks v. KNTV Television, Inc.

Posted in Discrimination

In Hicks v. KNTV Television, Inc., plaintiff, a white male, worked as a news anchor for defendant-employer. Plaintiff’s contract was not renewed when it expired. Instead, defendant hired a black male to replace plaintiff. Plaintiff filed suit for discrimination, alleging that the employer did not renew his contract because it was being pressured to hire a minority. The employer argued that it did not discriminate against plaintiff and that plaintiff’s contract was not renewed because his on air personality was too "aloof, distant, standoffish, unapproachable and anchor-like." The trial court found for the employer and plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, plaintiff argued that he was more objectively qualified for the job than his replacement. Plaintiff had more journalism experience, had more experience as an anchor, and had more practical experience in the market. The Court of Appeal, however, rejected these arguments. The Court focused on whether the employer’s proffered reason for not renewing plaintiff’s contract was pretextual. In its analysis, the Hicks court stated that subjective criteria have become more "critical" to making employment decisions; commenting that subjective characteristics like "common sense, good judgment, originality, loyalty, and tact," are "essential to an individual’s success in a supervisory or professional position."