A former news anchor at a Kansas City TV station has filed a lawsuit accusing her old boss of denying her a promotion based on her race.
Lawyers for Megan Murphy, who was known on air as Megan Dillard, say in the suit that when she expressed interest in the anchor position in January 2020, the news director at the time, Sean McNamara, laughed and said, “You know you’re the wrong minority.”
McNamara is not directly named as a defendant.
The complaint says WDAF-TV, a Fox affiliate, engaged in a “pattern and practice of expressly considering race when making hiring and promotional decisions regarding on-air positions at Fox 4.”
Lawyers for Nexstar, the station's parent company and the largest TV station owner in the U.S. with nearly 200 stations, denied that any discrimination occurred in a response to Murphy’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri last week.
Murphy worked as a weekend anchor and reporter at WDAF-TV for nearly seven years before deciding not to renew her contract when it expired in October 2020 as a result of the incident, according to the suit.
Over the course of three years, she had filled in several times as an evening anchor for Dhomonique Ricks, referred to in the suit as “D.R." When Ricks left the station in January 2020, the evening anchor slot opened up and Murphy expressed interest in the position to McNamara.
In court documents, Murphy’s lawyers also say other employees told Murphy that McNamara had complained about too many Asian women applying for the position, which Nexstar’s lawyers also deny.
Murphy’s lawyers declined to comment.
Lawyers for Nexstar also declined to comment, citing company policy not to comment on personnel matters or pending litigation. Nexstar’s chief communications officer also declined to comment beyond court filings. McNamara did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Murphy’s lawyers say in the lawsuit that Murphy was the station's “only Asian on-air employee” when the lead evening anchor job opened up.
Preliminary findings released in May from an upcoming report by the Asian American Journalists Association found that the majority of the biggest local TV stations in the U.S. do not proportionately represent the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations of their communities.
A quarter of the stations in the country’s top 20 markets have no Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in front of the camera, according to the findings. Only four — in Cleveland, Denver, Miami and Phoenix — have “on-air staff comparable with their local AAPI population.” Philadelphia, Detroit and Orlando rank the lowest.
A scheduling conference in Murphy’s case is set for Aug. 25.
CORRECTION (June 16, 10:25 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the corporate status of WDAF-TV. It is a Fox affiliate, not a Fox News affiliate.