Former etalk host sues Bell Media citing 'blatant gender discrimination'
Another prominent woman in Canadian media is calling attention to industry-wide gender discrimination problems that are, to be frank, so much worse than most TV viewers would ever realize.
Danielle Graham, who worked on CTV's etalk for about 15 years before she was laid off in March, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer alleging that she was canned for trying to challenge the "constant, persistent and systemic gender discrimination which she received as a woman."
The 41-year-old mother of two and longtime television host is seeking $1 million from Bell Media Inc. (which owns CTV) for wrongful dismissal, plus more than $1.5 million more in other damages.
Unlike former Breakfast Television personality and Q107 radio host Jennifer Valentyne, who in May released a powerful video via social media detailing some of the treatment that eventually led her to file a gender discrimination complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Graham has yet to address the lawsuit publicly with her fans.
The details of her legal complaint paint a vivid picture, nonetheless, of a woman being treated unfairly, passed over for deserving promotions, and being offered far less money than similarly-tenured male colleagues.
None of these allegations have been proven in court, but they're sparking plenty of conversation today about gender, race, and Bell "Let's Talk" Media's discordant public-facing image.
Bell Media is accused of being an unethical, fake woke company that violates Canadian labour standards?— Jamil Jivani (@jamiljivani) June 11, 2022
You don't say.https://t.co/sfUXeB4vRF
Perhaps most disturbing among the whole case is that Graham believes her complaints about gender discrimination are what prompted CTV to eliminate her position.
According to Graham's lawyers, the longtime etalk host had long been "dramatically underpaid," denied perks given to men in her role, and "had always accepted second-hand treatment relative to the main host, Ben Mulroney."
The entertainment news professional was reportedly asked to work for free sometimes (something that happened to at least three other women on staff, she said) and made to feel penalized for getting pregnant, noting that a manager had responded to the news of her second child with "Oh, f**k again?"
"While 7 months pregnant and having difficulties standing with high heeled shoes for long periods, her requested accommodation needs as a pregnant woman were ignored and she was not permitted to shoot her portion of the show first, to avoid the physical agony she experienced," reads the lawsuit.
Things came to a head, it seems, after etalk anchor Ben Mulroney stepped down from his position in 2020 to make way for more diverse voices, noting when he departed that he hoped the new anchor would be "Black, Indigenous, or a person of colour."
The lawsuit makes clear that Graham "had great admiration for Mulroney and respected him as an esteemed colleague," but that she had been led to believe she'd be promoted to senior anchor upon his departure.
Instead, the job was given to Toronto blogger and businessman-turned-CTV darling Tyrone "T-rex" Edwards.
Tyrone Edwards is Ready to Shine as ETALK's New Co-Anchor: 'This is Going To Be Big For So Many People That We Don't Even Know' https://t.co/SozvN7pLFj— Tyrone T-rex Edwards (@mr1LOVETO) September 15, 2020
Graham alleges that the network replaced Mulroney with Edwards immediately, offering him "the preferential treatment previously provided to Mr. Mulroney" despite his relative lack of experience.
Calling the station an "old boys club," Graham alleges that Edwards, who joined etalk in 2018 after about seven years with MuchMusic, was promoted over her despite his "gross incompetence" because he is a man.
"Bell even acknowledged his incompetence when he was first proposed for the position and the Plaintiff had objected on that very basis for the good of her show," reads the statement of claim.
"If Edwards had had superior skills to her, she would have accepted his preferential treatment, but it was precisely the reverse. He was internally well known as grossly incompetent and was provided a senior position relative to her because of his gender, there being no other explicable rationale."
Graham joined eTalk as a reporter in 2007 as a reporter and had risen through the ranks to become an anchor by 2017.
In her claim, Graham charges that Edwards was offered a chauffeur and more generous compensation than her while he was still reporter, but the legal suit actually doesn't actually revolve around his promotion over her.
Rather, it was the suspect timing of Graham's dismissal, which happened just one day before her lawyer was set to meet with CTV Vice President David Daigle and "discuss the gender discrimination and abuse she had been experiencing."
@DanielleGraham Sorry a little late learning the 'news'. I am so sorry that you had to leave since you were a bright star & great on you for taking action - I admire that. Good luck.— curious person (@nicoleh05534116) June 12, 2022
"She was fired specifically to preempt that meeting. She had complained three times in the previous year alone, expressing concerns of blatant gender discrimination against women at Bell, discrimination endemic at CTV," say Graham's lawyers in the suit.
"Her discharge, without cause or even rationale, following her many complaints of gender discrimination, was reprehensible and should result in a significant award of punitive damages to show the outrage that this treatment, in violation of community standards and acceptable behaviour, deserves."
Upon being fired after 17 years at the company, Graham says she was offered only three months' pay — about a quarter of what she says her husband, a creative director, was offered when he left Bell. This discrepancy is what prompted her to pursue legal action.
Bell Media has yet to respond to a request for comment regarding the case, but people online have much to say.
Looking at eTalk clips I don't see any evidence that Tyrone Edwards is "incompetent" or that she's a superior presenter. They have different interests - eg fashion vs music but that and being white doesn't make her entitled to be the main anchor.— Joe Bloor (@OlJoeBloor) June 12, 2022
Some are speaking out in support of Graham's actions, praising her bravery and willingness to take on a media juggernaut in the name of gender equality.
Others are calling the lawsuit ridiculous, arguing that — as one person put it — "As a white woman she can no longer claim 'oppressed' status under the Diversity lens."
"How exactly is a black man possibly a member of the old boys club? make it make sense," wrote one Twitter user. "Do white women know that they can win without tearing down black people?"
"White woman calling her black colleague grossly incompetent and suing [Bell Media] for promoting him instead of her," wrote another. I just can't get enough of how slimy this industry is."
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