TV anchor sues over contract, OT
Former TV news anchor Angela Keen is suing KHNL/KFVE-TV over alleged breach of contract and failure to pay overtime -- and is seeking unspecified damages.
Now working in public relations, Keen alleges the station violated its contract with her by demoting her and cutting her pay without the required written notice. The overtime complaint is for an alleged violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
John Fink, the stations' vice president and general manager, repeatedly declined comment, calling it a personnel matter.
Neither Keen nor her attorney could be reached.
According to the suit, Keen was hired to serve as the morning news and weather anchor and as a reporter for $75,000 a year. Her contract, entered into on Aug. 15, 2005, was to run from Sept. 26, 2005 to Sept. 25, 2007.
Keen claims that on Aug. 21, 2007, about a month before her contract was to expire, News Director Dan Dennison told her that as of Aug. 27 she would no longer be morning news anchor but would still serve as weather-caster and reporter -- and that her pay would be cut to $50,000.
The suit cites a termination clause in the contract allowing the company to end the agreement without cause under certain conditions.
If it sought to end the contract on an anniversary date, the company was required to give Keen 60 days' prior written notice. Terminating the contract at any other time required 90 days' written notice or "payment of the employee's base salary for such notice period."
Dennison is on vacation and could not be reached.
As for overtime, one wonders if a salaried employee under contract can expect time-and-a-half.
Unusual language in the complaint states that as an anchor, Keen "primarily regurgitated facts and reported stories that were subject to control by KHNL/KFVE News Director Dan Dennison."
He "required Angela to submit every story Angela wrote for his review and approval. Angela had no control over the writing in her work as it had to be approved by Dennison," it says.
The language is needed to assert that she is not exempt from OT pay, explained media and labor attorney Jeff Portnoy. The more control an employer exercises over work product, "the less likely an employee is to be exempt."
A section of the Fair Labor Standards Act covering journalists says, "the creative professional exemption depends on how much invention, imagination, originality or talent is actually exercised by the employee."
News anchor "Joe Moore is exempt," Portnoy said, but someone who rewrites copy is not and would be entitled to OT.
"What a lawyer alleges and what the facts are, are sometimes completely different things," he said, predicting the case will be "factually intensive," as such matters are decided on a case-by-case basis.
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