Former NBC10 Boston reporter claims 2019 firing was retaliation


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Karen Hensel, an award-winning journalist, also claims she was repeatedly sexually harassed by a fellow investigative reporter and the station took no action.

Karen Hensell. -Twitter

A former NBC10 Boston reporter who was fired from the station three years ago after she didn’t officially disclose a relationship with a Massachusetts police chief for a while is now suing the outlet in federal court , alleging that she was sexually harassed by another reporter and then retaliated against for reporting the misconduct to supervisors.

Karen Hensel, award-winning journalist and former member of NBC10’s inaugural investigative team, claims she was repeatedly harassed, primarily by another investigative reporter, according to a complaint filed in US District Court in Boston on 10 november. The journalist is only referred to as Jane Doe in court documents.

“During his employment with NBC 10 Boston, [Hensel] was continually subjected to a pattern and practice of ongoing harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation,” the lawsuit states.

Hensel, through his attorney, alleges that “Doe’s conduct and actions were designed and intended to interfere with [Hensel’s] job performance and career success with the goal of making Ms. Doe the station’s top investigative reporter.

Additionally, Hensel alleges she faced discrimination when she was fired for her relationship with Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis Jr.

In court documents, Hensel alleges that a male deputy news director did not disclose he was involved in a relationship with a reporter — his subordinate — until the station received anonymous complaints “and / or” when the journalist’s spouse confronted the manager at the station. . Yet the director was not fired, the lawsuit says.

Hensel was hired as an investigative reporter for the launch of NBC10 Boston and NECN and moved from Indiana to Boston for the gig in 2016, according to the court complaint.

During her more than 30-year career, she has received numerous awards, including two Peabody Awards, 11 Emmy Awards, several Edward R. Murrow Awards and dozens of Associated Press Awards.

Her LinkedIn profile indicates that she is currently an investigative reporter for WSVN-TV 7News in Florida.

The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trail and compensation for damages, names WBTS Television LLC, NBC Universal Media LLC and former NBC10 Boston news executive Ben Dobson as defendants.

Dobson and station officials did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday.

According to the lawsuit, Hensel was hired in March 2016 under a three-year contract that expired in July 2019.

Beginning in May 2017, Hensel complained to a supervisor about Doe’s behavior, according to the suit, and was told to “deal with [Ms. Doe] as best you can. You know how she is.

Hensel alleges that the station did not investigate his complaint, but was well aware of Doe’s conduct and behavior in the workplace. Hensel again complained to a supervisor in May 2019, and a producer “expressly admitted that he knew of Ms. Doe’s conduct,” the lawsuit says.

Still, Doe’s behavior reportedly continued, including an incident when “Ms. doe humiliated [Hensel] to tears in front of colleagues in the newsroom.

“This incident occurred after the plaintiff offered to help Ms. Doe record an interview,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Doe, in turn, was critical and demeaning of [Hensel] and before other employees.

Hensel contends the station took no action against Doe, even after she again admitted the behavior to a supervisor before signing a second three-year contract in 2019, the documents show.

Meanwhile, Hensel’s own work performance earned him “overwhelmingly positive” reviews in 2017 and 2018, according to the lawsuit.

In February 2019, Doe told a producer that Hensel was dating Sluckis, the police chief, according to the documents. The producer then informed Hensel’s supervisor.

“In February 2019, the defendants and at least three members of the management of the station NBC10 Boston were aware of [Hensel’s] relationship with a local police chief,” the lawsuit states.

Hensel “did not and never denied” that she was dating Sluckis, according to the documents.

At no time during his employment did Hensel believe the relationship posed a potential conflict of interest or required formal disclosure to station management, the lawsuit states. Although aware of the relationship, Hensel’s supervisors did not tell her she needed to report it, according to the filing.

However, on November 8, 2019, Dobson met with Hensel and told him that he had received an anonymous complaint via the station’s internal website regarding Hensel’s relationship, according to the documents.

Dobson reportedly told Hensel that the complaint was “likely prompted by the company’s release of a new seating plan in October 2019.”

“It was well known that Ms. Doe was unhappy with the new seating chart,” the filing reads. “Mr. Dobson also warned [Hensel]: ‘You have to be careful because there are sharks in the water… I have them after me too.’”

Dobson, for the first time, also told her she should disclose the relationship, which Hensel did after the Nov. 11 meeting, the lawsuit says.

On November 15, Dobson and Hensel met again, this time in the presence of a human resources representative, Hensel’s complaint states.

There, Hensel told Dobson that she wanted to remain in the investigative unit, and Dobson “encouraged ‘Hensel to’ continue to nurture her personal relationship with [Sluckis] with the explicit instruction not to ‘turn off the information spigot’ with respect to any advice she might be able to pass on to the NBC 10 Boston news desk,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Three days later, Mr. Dobson fired [Hensel] by letter dated November 18, 2019,” the filing reads. “He cited as reasons [Hensel’s] alleged “violation of company policies…”, specifically policies regarding conflict of interest and outside activities. »

Shortly after being fired in 2019, Hensel wrote in an email to station staffers that she hadn’t covered any stories involving Sluckis while she was dating him “and thought the self -surveillance was sufficient,” according to a copy of the email obtained by The Boston Globe at the time.

Hensel had, however, before dating him, reported on Sluckis: once in 2017 and again in 2018, the newspaper reported at the time.

Defendants have three weeks to file a response to the trial.



Boston

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