AARP Joins T.V. Writers Bias Suit

January 15, 2002 ( American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation has teamed with a group of television writers in a class action age-bias lawsuit against TV networks, studios, and talent agencies.

The suit, filed by 5l writers in the US District Court in Los Angeles, charges that the 50 defendants violated federal and state age discrimination laws in hiring and referrals by effectively freezing the writers out.

The plaintiffs are seeking more than $200 million in damages, according to an AARP press statement.

The defendants include major corporations as the National Broadcasting Company, American Broadcasting Company, Inc., CBS Broadcasting, Inc., Fox Broadcasting Company, Universal Television, Inc., Viacom, Inc., Warner Brothers Television, DreamWorks SKG TV LLC, and the William Morris Agency, Inc.

The lead plaintiff in the case is two-time Emmy winner Tracy Keenan Wynn, 56, who, according to the suit, has been unable to find employment over the past five years because of pervasive age discrimination in the industry. Wynn is the son of the actor Keenan Wynn and grandson of Ed Wynn.

The suit bases its bias claim on the TV industry’s age bias is indicated in these statistics from the Writers Guild of America:

  • during the 1997-1998 broadcast season, 3l% of all writers in the Guild were over 50, however, they held only 5% of the jobs for comedy shows, according to the lawsuit.
  • Between 1987 and 1998, the employment rate for writers in their forties fell from 53% to 46%.  For writers in their fifties, the rate dropped from 48% to 32%.  For those in their sixties, it shrank from 40% to 19%, the lawsuit said.