‘Not strong enough for this market’: 3rd KCTV5 journalist sues over discrimination

A former multimedia sports journalist for KCTV5 has filed a federal lawsuit against the news station’s parent company, claiming he was discriminated against due to his race.

Adam Orduna of Overland Park filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, against Gray Media Group Inc., which does business in Kansas City as KCTV5. Orduna is the third KCTV5 journalist to file a discrimination lawsuit against the television company in the last four months.

Previously, a chief meteorologist and former news anchor for the station claimed supervisors discriminated against them on the basis of their age and gender.

In the most recent lawsuit, Orduna, who is Black, alleges he was undermined by a similarly qualified white colleague who was given “apparent authority” over his schedule and work performance. He claimed the station allowed his work and reputation to be unfairly scrutinized by a colleague, whom he alleged to have a prejudice against Black people.

Gray Media Group Inc. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘Apparent authority’

Orduna was hired on June 21, 2021, as a multimedia journalist for the KCTV5 sports department.

Then on Jan. 1, 2022, Meredith Corp., which owned the news station, was purchased by Gray Media Group Inc.

During that time a white colleague with similar qualifications was given “apparent authority” to monitor Orduna’s hours and assign him projects.

The colleague “misleadingly” documented Orduna’s alleged performance issues, according to the lawsuit. In some instances, the colleague reported Orduna for not showing up on Saturday nights to work on a show, despite having instructed Orduna to leave before the show so as not to work over 40 hours per week.

On another occasion, the colleague allegedly manipulated the work schedule so that Orduna would be required to work one Saturday. Orduna claimed he was not made aware of the schedule change and ws reprimanded for missing work.

The lawsuit said such situations damaged Orduna’s reputation.

In March 2022, his colleague said Orduna could not anchor. Orduna then went to the news director, Kate Glover, who had been accused of discrimination in a previous lawsuit, and she repeatedly encouraged him, saying she “had no issues with [Orduna] anchoring,” the lawsuit said.

On July 1 of that year, Orduna anchored a broadcast on the news station. He was then brought in to speak with Glover and the station’s general manager, where he was criticized for his lack of experience.

Glover told Orduna that his anchoring was “not strong enough for this market,” and she was initially “just trying to be nice.”

Four months later in November, Glover read aloud Orduna’s performance issues, as documented by his colleague, in a meeting. She told Orduna that he may be fired if he did not consider switching from the sports to the news department at the station, according to the lawsuit.

Accusations of racism

Orduna contended that his work was being unfairly assessed and claimed his colleague should not have been supervising his performance.

On Nov. 5, Orduna submitted a complaint to Human Resources over email, alleging that he was experiencing racial discrimination. He claimed his colleague had been “targeting him, creating a hostile work environment, and generally displaying a lack of respect,” out of prejudice toward Black people, according to the lawsuit.

Orduna accused the colleague of “spreading the racist trope that [Orduna] was not willing to work hard,” the lawsuit said.

On Nov. 16, Orduna submitted another email claiming Glover had displayed racial prejudice by not allowing Orduna to anchor a broadcast. He also said he was concerned about experiencing retaliation for speaking out in the email, according to the lawsuit.

Human Resources staff told Orduna they would investigate his claims in a Nov. 21 Zoom call.

On Jan. 23, Orduna was not included in the new sports department promotion.

The next day, he was called into an urgent meeting with three supervisors, including Glover and a union representative. Later that day he was suspended indefinitely without pay “with no explanation as to why,” the lawsuit said.

On Jan. 26 he received a termination notice referencing his “suitability” for the role.

The lawsuit claims Gray Media Group relied on the statements of his former colleague, who Orduna accused of targeting him, without any human resources investigation into his concerns.

Orduna is seeking compensation for punitive damages, attorney’s fees and any other related costs. The lawsuit does not say how much money Orduna is seeking, but it does request a jury trial.

An attorney for Orduna did not immediately respond to requests for comment.