INDIANAPOLIS — Former WTHR-13 news anchor Andrea Morehead has filed a civil lawsuit against the station and its owners.
Morehead, a 1987 graduate of Highland High School, alleges the company failed to provide accommodations and has engaged in harassment and retaliation since she announced her breast cancer diagnosis more than two years ago. She was terminated in December.
After filing a complaint in May 2020 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Morehead received a Notice of Right to Sue on Oct. 15, 2020, against Tegna Inc., owner of the station since August 2019. Morehead filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act on Jan. 13 in the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana.
WTHR-13 is The Herald Bulletin’s newsgathering partner. Morehead, 51, did not return calls for comment.
According to the complaint, her illness was the subject of bets among coworkers, management released information without permission and her ability to perform her duties was intentionally curtailed because of her inability to work at the same pace during treatment.
“While thousands of WTHR viewers shared support with Andrea Morehead, her co-workers poked fun at her suffering and created an untenable work environment,” the complaint said. “After Andrea Morehead discussed these issues with Michael Brouder, the WTHR General Manager and other station managers began a relentless campaign of harassment.”
Brouder said the station does not comment on individual employee issues, especially when there is a lawsuit involved.
Morehead is seeking unspecified amounts of lost wages and benefits and compensatory punitive damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, and court costs and attorney fees.
A seven-time Emmy-winning journalist who started working at WTHR in 1999, Morehead was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2018. Because of her popularity and influence, the complaint said, she was willing to share limited parts of her journey, though no details about the daily radiation through December 2018 and immunotherapy started in February 2019.
“Andrea Morehead’s new treatments required considerable time away from work, not only to receive treatment but also to recover from the sometimes-severe side effects,” the complaint explained.
She became aware on Feb. 27, 2020, of a distressing conversation that took place among her colleagues, according to the complaint.
“Specifically, assistant news director Perry Pace, executive producer Taylor Beck, producer Ashley Hardin-Hammons, and news anchor Anne Marie Tiernon discussed a $20 bet regarding whether Andrea Morehead would return from her cancer treatments,” the suit alleges.
“The conversation took place after a news director informed other staff members that Andrea Morehead would not be coming in that day due to her cancer treatment. Such conversations were a frequent occurrence within Andrea Morehead’s work environment and were clearly poking fun at Andrea Morehead’s unfortunate cancer diagnosis and the treatment she was receiving.”
Managers also failed to respect Morehead’s privacy, revealing personal medical information to coworkers, according to the complaint.
“Andrea Morehead sent several messages to Perry Pace and Jeff Rosetti informing each of them she was physically unable to work that extended period of time, due to the debilitating effects of the cancer treatment,” the complaint said.
“Because other anchors would be required to adjust their shifts due to Andrea Morehead’s inability to work the extended period of time, WTHR management informed those anchors of the medical reasons Andrea Morehead shared with management for being unable to work.”
According to the complaint, management also failed to take into consideration Morehead’s limitations as she tried to regain her health. For instance, in July 2019 she was mandated to work a double shift to interview now-President-Elect Joe Biden at the Indiana Convention Center.
Though her job performance met or exceeded requirements, according to the complaint, management delayed or prevented entirely the airing of segments Morehead spearheaded.
“WTHR management persistently refused to provide production assistance to Andrea Morehead for interviews and logging tapes, even though this same assistance was provided to similarly-situated colleagues,” the complaint said.
“WTHR management refused to offer this type of assistance to Andrea Morehead, even though it was aware that Andrea Morehead required additional accommodations due to the fatigue and other limitations caused by the cancer treatment.”