Oprah Winfrey's OWN network sued because of 'hostile work environment'

TMZ is reporting that Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network has been sued by a former employer with Multiple Sclerosis who alleges that workplace stress worsened her condition. According to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Catherine Dunn was an assistant at OWN starting in August 2008 and claims she was “subjected to a hostile work environment” because of her condition.

Dunn claims she was forced to take a stress leave as well of a leave of absence because her symptoms were exacerbated by workplace stress. When out on leave, Dunn was replaced by “a non-disabled and younger employee,” according to the lawsuit.

Dunn is suing for wrongful termination, among other things. She is asking for unspecified damages.

A spokesperson for OWN told EW, “We have not seen the lawsuit. We are unaware of the claims. When and if we see something we will review appropriately.”

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  • K

    I’m confused – OWN hasn’t even started yet. Was she actually working for Oprah at the time or Discovery? I didn’t think the agreement for OWN happened until 2009, but I could be wrong.

  • MultiPass

    She has MS. It’s pretty much a guarantee that she’ll get a settlement. But the reality is work IS stressful and ANY kind of stress exacerbates MS. She shouldn’t be in a stressful environment, period. That’s probably her own fault. But it was stupid of the network to replace her while she was on leave. someone should fire the HR manager who messed that one up.

    • mscisluv

      Isn’t it possible that they just replaced her with a temp? After all, work has to get done, even while an employee is on leave. And so what if the temp was “non-disabled and younger”? They should deliberately hire a temp with MS?

      • Will

        No they should deliberately hire an older temp with MS…seriously though, that part of her claim is a bit out there.

    • KE

      Sometimes, people should NOT speak of things that they no nothing to little about. MS is a condition that is PERSON/INDIVIDUAL specific, so if you and I both had MS we would not necessarily have the same symptoms. And stress is universal and the amount of stress a person is under depends on teh person — i.e. a single mother or 3 with a crappy job may have 10 times as much stress as s single person with MS, same hold true for a man with a family whon has lost his job and has no way to pay his huge mortgage payments, etc.

  • oc

    I like to hear more detail about the alleged hostile work environment because when that claim is made and it is noted that the employer hired someone to fill in for the employee who was out on leave with someone who didn’t have a disability, I start to doubt the credibility of the accuser.

  • DT

    Maybe it’s not a case of the employeebeing an overly sensitive oppoertunist here. Maybe Oprah’s an uncaring egomaniac who’s tough and insensitive to her employees while portraying a sunny, warm disposition to her TV viewers.

    • Dinamal

      Oprah offers the best pay and benefits in the industry from what I heard especially when it comes to holidays. Also, she recently gave everyone who works at her magazine a $10,000 bonus to celebrate the 10th anniversary, and a couple years ago, she took every single person at Harpo at their entire families to Hawaii. One of the reasons she’s so successful is that she actually treats her employees very well and thus the best people want to work for her and turnover is pretty low.

      • SyD

        Dinamal: You can give employees a Mercedes and you’ll find one who will complain about the color or something about it! This story should not even be in print until all the details are out. I’d love to work for Oprah. Sounds like she would be a great employer because she had to really work her way to where she is now. Nothing was handed to her.

      • EF

        I should try to get a job with Oprah.

      • Elizabeth

        Oh come on, Dinamal, why don’t you just say that you’re on the payroll. Kitty Kelly has detailed just how wonderful Oprah really is.

      • Dinamal

        I’m not on the payroll, Elizabeth. You’re just trying to marginalize me because it makes your stomach turn to see an iconic billionaire black woman be praised. Are you on Kitty Kelley’s payroll or are you Kitty Kelley herself? Kitty Kelley has made a very good living smearing celebrities by talking to every bitter ex-friend, every bitter-family member, every bitter-ex employee and every media critic, and then cherry picking quotes to portray her subjects in the worst light possible. Read POISON PEN by George Carpozi jr. if you want to know how Kitty Kelley operates.

      • sherry

        I agree, who wouldn’t work there and I DONT AGREE WITH THAT DISGRUNTLE EMPLOYEE.

      • Desmo

        And the race card has officially been played. People like Dinamal make me sick.

    • EDan Perry

      YOu are a damn fool

  • trolly mac trollersun

    I’d like to hear what Zach Anner has to say about this.

  • stocktrader


    People who have their own dreams and passions, that’s who.

    Oprah is a brand. She is a business. She “cares” about her employees only as much as they make money for her. She pays her and treats her employees the best because if she doesn’t then she’ll risk them waking up from their work/consume lifestyle.

    What do you get when going to work for Oprah? You get to finish first in someone else’s race.

  • Stan

    Regardless of your medical condition you still obligated to show up to work and preform your duties. If her MS was too severe to work she should of been placed into a less stressful duties, and given te ability to accept or leave.

  • Biooooootch Boyyyyyy

    yeah she made a stupid mistake. Probably shouldn’t have even shown up that first day….whooooore

    Oh, and you are all my minions. Bow down bioooootches. Taste it.

  • Biooooootch Boyyyyyy

    Is it salty? Oooooooh YUUUUMMMM! :) Salty nuts in yo cheeks! Swirl em! Swirl em!

  • Tom

    I don’t know what happened. However, Oprah has a bad human rights record.

    A horrible manager of her TV company was allowed to bully her employees for an enormous amount of time. They each confronted her asking her, “How could a victim of child abuse allow such abuse of other people.” Oprah replied every time that “that’s not the first time that I’ve heard that comparison.” Oprah only got rid of the ogre when everyone threatened to quit at a meeting. Not good.

    Another time a debunker of psychics “the Amazing Randy” was on her show and a woman “psychic” began to accuse him of pedophilia. Oprah wouldn’t intervene and shut her up. They went to a commercial, and came back and “the Amazing Randy” had Oprah in tears for allowing the woman to slander him. Oprah finally shut the woman up.

    Another time was with Anne Heche and Ellen Degeneres were being bullied by a homophobic woman in the audience. Oprah was apparently afraid of this strident woman because she wouldn’t really let Anne and Ellen defend or offend this woman, but would almost defend this bigot and her point of view that homosexuality was a choice.

    Oprah has a real character flaw in that she’s a coward when other people are being abused.

    • Kathra

      Oprah played the therapist on Ellen’s coming out show and endured the worst hate mail of her career for it since it was extremely controversial at the time. That undermines your point that Oprah is too cowardly to stand up for the rights of others. And I saw the show when Ellen and Anne Heche were on Oprah and they were not bullied by any audience member. On the contrary, Ellen nailed the woman with her comic wit and had the whole audience laughing at her.

  • aa915

    She has a reputation for having subordinates act as her enforcers so as not to dirty her hands, but everybody knows who calls the shots.

    • getreal

      Oprah has a talk show, a radio channel, a magazine, a school in Africa, a foundation, an emerging cable network, a web page. I somehow doubt she has the time to call every shot and make every decision.

    • Michelle

      You’re on to something.

  • Gary

    I assume the woman was working for the Oprah Winfrey Show or another arm of the media empire because The Oprah Winfrey Network doesn’t start until January, 2011

  • Don

    It’s obvious Oprah is a ball buster with numerous underlying hostilities. Her character issues obviously negatively influence and permeate her entire organization.

    • huh

      It’s obvious you know nothing about her and are just grasping at straws & jumping at any excuse to diminish her because you resent her success.

  • bingbang

    Finally the truth comes out about Opra. What an awful, awful person.

  • LadyJNewYork

    People on all jobs are “STRESSED”, and because this woman had MS that probably aggravated her illness more. I’m sure she will settle for a “milli”, and move on.

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