Longtime anchor Morehead sues WTHR, claims harassment, discrimination

Longtime WTHR-TV Channel 13 news anchor Andrea Morehead claimed in a lawsuit filed last week that she was harassed and mistreated by colleagues and managers over several years as she waged a public battle with breast cancer.

“While thousands of WTHR viewers shared support with Andrea Morehead, her coworkers poked fun at her suffering and created an untenable work environment,” attorney Terrance Kinnard wrote in a lawsuit filed Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

WTHR’s website still lists Morehead as one of its news anchors, but Kinnard told IBJ that the station fired her in December. Morehead’s social media accounts continue to identify her as a WTHR employee.

Michael Brouder, WTHR’s general manager, told IBJ he can’t comment on pending lawsuits. Morehead, through her attorney, declined to comment.

Morehead

The suit accuses WTHR and parent company Tegna Inc. of unlawfully discriminating against Morehead on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, lost wages, legal fees and other compensation .

“The lawsuit is self-explanatory. She stands by every word,” Kinnard said when contacted by telephone Sunday. “Mrs. Morehead is looking forward to her day in court.”

In May 2018, Morehead announced publicly that she had been diagnosed the previous month with Stage 1 breast cancer that she described then as “aggressive” and said she would undergo chemotherapy. Then, in October, WTHR.com posted a video in which Morehead said that after 20 weeks of treatments and surgery, she was “cancer free.”

The suit says Morehead’s colleagues often poked fun at her after she was diagnosed, although it cites different dates for Morehead’s illness than she had revealed publicly. The suit said she was diagnosed in September 2018 and underwent radiation treatments that ended that December.

Kinnard did not immediately return a message seeking clarification about the dates.

The suit said that to keep the cancer from coming back, Morehead underwent immunotherapy treatments from February 2019 until February 2020 that often kept her away from work. The suit points out that common side effects of immunotherapy are fatigue, body aches, fever, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and other side effects.

The lawsuit said the ongoing health care struggle made her the butt of office jokes. It claims that she learned in February 2020 that two coworkers and two managers bet $20 on whether she would return to work after the treatments were finished.

“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,” Kinnard wrote in the lawsuit. “Although Tegna managers were present during these conversations, no action was taken to admonish the participants and the behavior was allowed to continue unfettered.”

The suit said Morehead shared personal medical details with Tegna management as part of explanations for her requests for leave from work and to excuse any treatment-related tardiness or absences. After that, the suit said, station managers conducted a “relentless campaign of harassment.”

Morehead said the discriminatory treatment extended to the story ideas she pitched and worked to get on the air.

“Several of Andrea Morehead’s stories and story ideas were put off or disregarded completely,” Kinnard wrote. “At times, management would simply rename Andrea Morehead’s story ideas and assume credit for Andrea Morehead’s story ideas.”

In one incident, the lawsuit said, Morehead explained to her bosses that she would be unable to work a double shift in order to interview then-former Vice President Joe Biden in July 2019.

Morehead claimed managers in turn shared with coworkers details of her cancer treatments that she had wanted kept private.

Morehead, an Anderson native, joined WTHR in 1999 and has won seven Emmy Awards, according to her biography on WTHR.com. She has reported on major world events including the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Ryckaert is a freelance reporter who worked for The Indianapolis Star for 23 years. You can reach him on Twitter at @VicRyc.

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16 thoughts on “Longtime anchor Morehead sues WTHR, claims harassment, discrimination

    1. Sad to hear. We have been big fans of Ms. Morehead and wondered why we had not seen her recently. Wishing her well.

  1. So sad to hear.

    Not taking sides as for not knowing all the facts but this type of conduct is far too common in the workplace when someone suffers a catastrophic illness or injury.

    Peace of mind isn’t allowed and getting help information or assistance wise from the employer navigating the process with the insurance companies and care providers is almost nonexistent.

    Dare ye be human and life happens to you!

  2. WTHR has seemly taken a couple steps backward since being acquired…..becoming more political and losing a number of anchors. It’s really a shame as they have several outstanding news personalities!

  3. This is very sad and disappointing. I have been a fan of WTHR/Channel 13 for some time, but this may push me to a different local news outlet. I wish Andrea Moorhead well and hope justice is served.

  4. Separate issue but similar:
    I have been pleased to hear Fox59 morning anchors continue to say “I am XXXX (anchor of the day) filling in for Lindsay Thackston”.
    This is impressive given the long duration since her May 2020 public announcement that Lindsay has been unable to work following her cancer diagnosis.

    Cancer is so draining.
    Best of luck in all of your future efforts to Andrea Morehead and Lindsay Thackston.

    1. I had the same thought, too; how supportive the Fox59 anchors and reporters have been of Lindsay–giving her on-air shout outs and not dropping her name or image from their broadcast. No employee should have to endure abuse from their employer or co-workers while going through any major illness. There but for the grace of God, go I. Wishing Andrea and Lindsay physical and emotional healing.

    2. This is one of the first things that came to my mind (after the disgust for WTHR management). Fox 59 has been so supportive of Lindsay and her recovery with on-air shout outs and not removing her name or image from their broadcast. No one should suffer abuse at the hands of their employer or co-workers while going through any illness. There but for the grace of God go I. Wishing both Andrea and Lindsay physical and emotional healing.

  5. First off l have always enjoyed watching her on WTHR. I’ve always thought she did a very good job. Secondly and most importantly it appears she is cancer free and that is wonderful. It sounds like her treatment was very extensive. My question is why does two employees wagering $20 on whether she comes back to work or not have anything to do with harassment and discrimination. It seems when employees get fired and they feel they have been wronged their attorneys throw anything and everything out there that they think will stick in court and in the eyes of public opinion. There are always two sides to the disgruntled employee story and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

    1. Not merely two employees/associates wagering but *management*. Management sets the example for everyone else. If they did it at work it was in poor taste. (Actually, there are “III Sides to Every Story: Yours, Mine, and the Truth”) (and not just in the music world). But when in doubt, management should show discretion, and when asked, merely shrug and play stupid. She could have told two different members of management, asking each not to share, and if that were true, -the-two-should-have-never discovered-the-other-one-knew!
      .
      I volunteered as an EMT in high school & college…40 years ago. I *still* don’t tell stories about patients, not even to my wife, who I know can keep a secret; even though the odds are pretty good (lottery, anyone?) the person something happened to and the person I’m telling won’t discover each other. Sure there was the middle of the night we were on US 30 and the electrical system was fried and we had no way of getting help for quite some time until someone reported seeing an ambulance sitting by the side of the road, but *nothing* about the patient.

  6. She was a advocate for breast cancer early diagnosis and treatment years before she was a victim herself. She’s a great anchor and a real plus for WTHR. If any of this is true, shame on WTHR for such insensitive and illegal treatment. If she goes to another station, my viewership goes with her.

  7. Shame on WTHR. I’m on Team Andrea. First Cancer and now she has to battle her former employer. How stressful this must be for her, and something a person recovering from what she went through medically should not have to be doing mentally and physically. It’s a mass exodus of anchors at that station which tells me what Andrea is alleging is true.

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