Former anchor's multimillion-dollar lawsuit against KUSI underway
Nearly four years after signing off from KUSI-TV, longtime San Diego news anchor Sandra Maas is getting her day in court.
Maas is suing the station's owner, McKinnon Broadcasting, claiming they violated California’s Equal Pay Act and Discrimination Law. Her suit demands payment for past wages, future wages lost and emotional distress.
"I worked for KUSI for 15 years, really put my heart and soul into my work there, and loved my job. And the year before I left I discovered my co-anchor was being paid 40% more than I was, for doing the same job," Maas said in an interview at her attorney's office last week.
Maas said learning about that salary difference was hurtful. Her eyes filled with tears as she recounted her feelings: "Shock, betrayal, humiliation. I was sad."
She said she was fired after requesting a raise.
"I could walk away silently and bury my humiliation and shame over losing my job in such a disrespectful, disappointing way. Or I could share my story and take back my power and try to make a difference for other women in the workplace, and that’s what I’ve chosen to do," she said.
Court documents show Maas made $80,000 less than her co anchor.
"Employers who have discriminated against women, even unintentionally, in setting their pay have to mend their ways," said Miranda McGowan, a professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law.
McGowan's areas of expertise include constitutional, labor, gender and discrimination law. She said California law is clear when it comes to equal pay, and it’s a lot more stringent than federal law. "California just re-passed the Equal Pay Act to make it even more stringent on employers," McGowan said. "So I think the message employers should get is start paying women what they’re actually worth."
Maas would not discuss how much she is suing for, but previous court documents indicated the amount was $10 million.
She also did not want to elaborate on vague statements about her former employer's treatment of employees. "I don't think McKinnon Broadcasting employees, past or present, would be surprised about the allegations, but I think KUSI viewers will be surprised to learn how women are treated behind closed doors."
Maas says she never imagined her nearly 40 years broadcasting would end like this. "It’s been really tough, but I’m hoping the new chapter will be a better ending for me."
We reached out to KUSI, but they did not return our calls for comment.