Oprah Winfrey's OWN Sued for Sex Discrimination

Carolyn Hommel was allegedly informed that she was being laid off due to "restructuring."

By Josh Grossberg
|  Monday, Feb 4, 2013  |  Updated 11:12 AM CDT
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Oprah Winfrey's OWN Sued for Sex Discrimination

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Hommel says following news of her pregnancy, Oprah's OWN network began excluding her from emails and updates on projects.

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Unfortunately for Oprah Winfrey, this is not a feel-good story.

The erstwhile talk show queen's OWN network is on the receiving end of a sex and pregnancy discrimination suit launched by a former executive.

Per the complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, a copy of which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Carolyn Hommel states that she was hired in July 2010 to be OWN's senior director of scheduling & acquisitions. But after receiving positive performance feedback and being told she was on track to be a vice president, she became pregnant in 2011 and had to go on medical leave due to a pregnancy-related condition.

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According to court docs, Hommel's boss, Michael Garner, told her that he was subsequently bringing in a temporary employee "to help out in the department" while Hommel was recuperating.

However, Hommel believes that many of her duties and responsibilities were stripped from her and given to the temp directly due to her pregnancy. The suit alleges that not only was she excluded from various meetings when she came back to work, but that other colleagues refused to share information and emails with her about the status of projects.

Hommel later gave birth to a baby girl on Feb. 28, 2012, only to find that the following month while on maternity leave, she was allegedly informed by her higher-ups that she was being laid off due to "restructuring." While Carolyn was allegedly told she could apply for a new VP position being created, the complaint claims that her 2012 performance review was not nearly as glowing as the previous year's as it contained "referenced conversations that never happened" and "factual inaccuracies" that consequently disqualified her for the position.

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The job of vice president of scheduling, it turns out, eventually went to the same temp who filled in for her, who the complaint states was not pregnant and did not suffer from pregnancy-related medical conditions.

Hommel is seeking unspecified damages for sex discrimination, disability discrimination, retaliation and willful failure to pay wages upon discharge or termination among other allegations.

A rep for OWN has so far yet to comment.

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