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An exclusive interview with former CBS11 traffic anchor Tammy Dombeck and her EEOC attorneys, who are taking the station to court on charges of age discrimination


Tammy Dombeck as traffic anchor at CBS11. Photo: Ed Bark

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D-FW’s CBS11 and its corporate parent, CBS Broadcasting Inc., discriminated against former early morning traffic anchor Tammy Dombeck because of her age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the station.

“The stereotype of young being preferred here won out, unfortunately,” EEOC senior trial attorney Joel P. Clark said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with unclebarky.com. Clark was joined on a conference call by Dombeck (who now uses Dombeck Campbell as her surname) and EEOC supervisory trial attorney Suzanne M. Anderson. In an email response Tuesday afternoon, CBS11 said it “respectfully disagrees with the EEOC’s current assessment and looks forward to resolving this matter.”

Dombeck Campbell, who was 42 at the time, ended up being a bridge between three younger blondes (one of whom eventually decided not to take the traffic anchor position) when CBS11 let her go in late April of 2015. She had become the station’s interim traffic anchor after Whitney Drolen resigned in October 2014. CBS11 had used Dombeck Campbell as a freelance fill-in traffic anchor during the 19 months before Drolen left.

Dombeck Campbell, now 44, said she repeatedly had been assured by CBS11 management that she was a candidate to become the station’s full-time traffic anchor. She went through channels and “officially applied for the position,” Dombeck Campbell said, putting together both a video and paper resume. In its official search for a replacement, CBS11 said that any applicant “must have at least five years professional broadcasting experience.” Dombeck Campbell earlier had been NBC5’s full-time traffic anchor for 12 years before leaving the station in July 2012 after a contract impasse. She became well known throughout the market as NBC5’s “Gridlock Buster.”

CBS11 instead first chose younger, blonde Amanda Zitzman as Drolen’s replacement, according to Dombeck Campbell and the EEOC attorneys. She had been the 2010 first runner-up to Miss Florida USA and now is an early morning reporter with Denver’s Fox31 station.

Zitzman later decided not to take the position, and Dombeck Campbell said she felt reinvigorated after then news director Mike Garber (who was dropped in August of last year) phoned to assure her that “I’d be a fool not to consider you for the position.”

“In the interim, though, they just kept bringing all these very young girls in to audition,” Dombeck Campbell said.

CBS11’s long dormant early morning ratings were on a clear upswing at the time, particularly with the main news demographic of 25-to-54-year-olds. In the May 2015 ratings “sweeps,” the station ran third among 25-to-54-year-olds for the first time in its history. CBS11 since has fallen back to a distant last.

Rather than keep the momentum going, CBS11 bypassed Dombeck Campbell a second time. Garber opted to hire the then 24-year-old Chelsey Davis, a former Arizona Cardinals cheerleader, as the station’s full-time traffic anchor. Davis, who also is a blonde, spent 16 months at CBS11 before leaving in October of last year to join her husband, former TEGNA8 early morning reporter Brandon Hamilton, in Phoenix.

Davis’ replacement, Madison Adams, joined CBS11 in late December of last year and remains in place as the station’s early morning traffic anchor. For the record, the Fort Worth native and Baylor University graduate also is young, blonde, a former sports reporter and a two-time Miss Texas pageant entrant (in 2014-15) with no previous experience calling traffic signals. She became Madison Sawyer after her marriage in late August of this year.

Dombeck Campbell, whose last day at CBS11 was on April 27, 2015, said the whole process was “humiliating, extremely upsetting and unfair.”

“I was just going to chalk it up and let it go,” she said, until her husband, Donnie Campbell (whom she married in December 2012) told her, “I don’t think you should let them get away with it.”

As required by law, the EEOC made an attempt to settle out of court with CBS11, Anderson said. “We attempted in good faith to conciliate it,” she said, but the two sides were far apart on an agreement “acceptable to the Commission.” They’ll now go to court unless a belated settlement is reached. Clark said that cases such as these typically are tried roughly eight months after a suit is filed. The EEOC has not disclosed what monetary compensation it’s seeking on Dombeck Campbell’s behalf.

She recalls several of her CBS11 colleagues telling her it was “blatant age discrimination” to keep bypassing her for younger blondes with little experience.

“It took a toll on my self-worth,” Dombeck Campbell said Tuesday. “My hope now is to inspire others that when you are going up against either a major broadcasting corporation or a small employer who you feel has treated you unfairly, the EEOC has laws in place to prevent this kind of discrimination . . . I just hope it empowers others to not turn away from making their employers accountable.”

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net