CBS Claims First Amendment Allows It To Select Writers “Best Suited” For Its Programs In Discrimination Lawsuit Response

CBS and Paramount Global have filed a response to a discrimination lawsuit by a writer who claimed he wasn’t hired because he was a straight, white man.

Brian Beneker filed his suit in March, complaining that he was not hired as a staff writer for the series SEAL Team solely for reason of his race, sex, and/or sexual orientation.

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“Defendants failed to hire or promote Mr. Beneker due to his race, sex, and heterosexuality,” the complaint from longtime SEAL Team script coordinator and freelance scribe Beneker read.

Beneker said in the complaint that he suffered by not being part of “the favored hiring groups; that is, they were nonwhite, LGBTQ, or female,” and the “illegal policy” of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion measures.

“This balancing policy has created a situation where heterosexual, white men need ‘extra’ qualifications (including military experience or previous writing credits) to be hired as staff writers when compared to their nonwhite, LGBTQ, or female peers, who require no such ‘extra’ qualifications,” the filing added.

CBS responded today and asked for a quick dismissal.

CBS “has a constitutional right under the First Amendment to select the writers whose work shapes CBS’s artistic enterprise,” the motion filed today read. CBS also asserted that aspects of Beneker’s complaint are time-barred and fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

“The First Amendment bars Beneker’s claims in full. The First Amendment embodies a core principle of speaker’s autonomy that bars the government from dictating to expressive enterprises like CBS what to say and how to say it. It therefore displaces applications of statutes, including anti-discrimination laws, that would force an expressive enterprise to compromise its own message.”

Holding CBS liable for not hiring him “would prevent CBS from hiring the storytellers whom CBS believes are best suited to tell the stories CBS wants to produce and broadcast. Granting relief to Beneker would impair CBS’s ability to speak on its own terms.”

The request for a dismissal will be heard on July 15 in Central District Court in Los Angeles.

Read the complete legal documents here.

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