Penny Micklebury, an assistant news director at Channel 7, filed a $10 million racial discrimination suit against the station yesterday in D.C. Superior Court.
The suit claims that the station has passed over Micklebury for promotions as "part of a pattern and practice of discrimination against black employes at WJLA-TV."
Thomas Cookerly, WJLA president and general manager, denied the charges in a phone conversation with the Associated Press, saying that the station "is proud of our record in minority hiring. We rank in the top 5 percent in the country in minority hiring." He said he was surprised by the suit.
Micklebury alleges that she has been relieved of most of her responsibilities in a campaign "to harass, embarrass and humiliate" her into resigning.
She seeks $5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
Named in the suit are the station; its parent, Allbritton Communications; Cookerly; and Executive News Director Thomas Doerr.
Micklebury charges that Doerr, who had been working for the Allbritton station in Tulsa when he was named to the WJLA job in October 1985, was "preselected" in secret for the new position of executive news director, even though he had, the suit claims, "substantially less experience" than Micklebury.
Cookerly says the news director job "is a tough and demanding position" and that Micklebury had been in management less than a year and a half when Doerr was selected.