A former editor for “PBS NewsHour” filed a lawsuit Thursday, saying that he was wrongfully fired due to his gender after he made an “innocuous” remark about Meghan Markle.
According to the suit, filed by Hugh Heckman in federal court in New York, he came aboardas a writer/editor for “PBS NewsHour Weekend,” which is produced by WNET in New York, in 2015, and “performed his job duties well and received numerous compliments and accolades from managers and co-workers.”
Despite that, Heckman says, he was shown the door in November 2017, shortly after commenting on a photo of Markle.
” On November 25, 2017, Plaintiff was at work on a story in his capacity as News Writer regarding the Royal Family of Britain, specifically His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, Duke of Sussex, and his then-fiancee, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (née Meghan Markle) (the ‘Duchess’),” the suit reads. “Plaintiff was viewing a picture of the Duchess with another male employee. Plaintiff said ‘not bad’ to this co-worker in a low tone of voice.”
The suit, which names PBS Newshour Productions LLC, WNET and APC Workforce Solutions II LLC as defendants, contends that Heckman “intended to convey that the Duchess possessed charm and beauty and was a suitable match for her fiance, who has a reputation of possessing charm and handsome looks.
Nonetheless, the suit says, a female employee sitting at her desk approximately 20 feet away, “heard this remark and criticized Plaintiff, stating that he had acted in contravention to the training that all employees had recently attended regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.”
According to the suit, a second co-worker also chastised Heckman, asking, “haven’t you learned?”
“Plaintiff was embarrassed and upset by this criticism of his innocently intended comment, and immediately explained that he had not intended any sexually harassing remark,” the suit reads.
A spokesperson for “NewsHour” did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit, which alleges termination because of sex and seeks unspecified damages.
Two days after the “not bad” comment, the suit says, an executive producer told Heckman that he was “regretfully” letting him go, citing “‘this latest incident,’ which referred to the Plaintiff’s remark set forth above.”
Heckman’s suit suggests that a double-standard was at play, saying that he complained that the two female employees who chastised him once made a similar remark — specifically, he said, they deemed Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to be “hot” after looking at an image of him.
“Defendants violated their progressive discipline policies by jumping to the ‘nuclear option’ of termination for an innocuous remark because of Plaintiff’s sex,” the suit contends.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.