What happens when you wear a Mariachi suit to work? Ask former CNN studio technician William Kane who was fired from CNN in June 2013, allegedly as a result of wearing “flamboyant” outfits. Mr. Kane “claims he was discriminated against and fired for being gay and for wearing extravagant clothes that included mariachi outfits, yellow track suits and cowboy hats” (Algar, New York Post, 2014). Apparently these vibrant outfits were determined incompatible with the workplace. In return, Mr. Kane has officially filed a $65 million Brooklyn federal lawsuit against CNN for the discrimination. Mr. Kane, who worked for CNN as a technical operator from 2002 to 2013, became well-known for his flashy garb – even with some of the more popular news anchors such as Piers Morgan and Christiane Amanpour. One day while wearing a black mariachi suit, he caught the attention of Ms. Amanpour who asked Mr. Kane to a take a photo with her; the photo was posted directly to her Twitter page in October 2012 (Algar, New York Post, 2014).
As part of the lawsuit, Mr. Kane claims that his vibrant outfits only became a problem after his supervisor, John Silva, became aware of Kane’s sexual orientation. Silva allegedly suggested to Mr. Kane that he transfer to other departments such as makeup or entertainment because his outfits were “too flamboyant for a male in our department” (Marzulli, Daily News, 2014). Comments such as these could help prove Mr. Kane’s discrimination case, but Kane claims his “colorful clothes were just a pretext to can him after he came out as gay last year” (Algar, New York Post, 2014). On one occasion in 2011, Mr. Silva allegedly offered Mr. Kane “a $100 T.J. Maxx shopping spree ‘bribe’ if he promised to change out of a track suit” (Algar, New York Post, 2014).
If Mr. Kane and his attorney, Mr. Rocco Avallone, are able to prove that Kane suffered as a result of discrimination, the company could be facing settlement charges of around $65 million. Kane mentioned Anderson Cooper in the lawsuit, who supposedly “gave (Kane) his personal company email address and asked plaintiff to email him details of the nature of being bullied by his supervisor” (Marzulli, Daily News, 2014). Another factor in the lawsuit is “that from 2002 to 2008, the technical operations department where he worked had a tradition of wearing colorful shirts on Thursdays” (Marzulli, Daily News, 2014). A CNN representative confirmed that Kane “originally filed a claim over the issue with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” that was originally dismissed, but Kane allegedly received a “right to sue” letter (Marzulli, Daily News, 2014). Mr. Kane stated, “I feel like the Rosa Parks of CNN. Maybe someone else won’t have to suffer the way I have” (Marzulli, Daily News, 2014).