Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting owner Jan Charles Gray, owner of five stations in Casper, WY asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit that claims his company failed to properly pay workers. In court papers filed this week, Gray and his attorney argue that prosecutors waited too long to file charges and that radio stations in small cities are exempt from overtime violations alleged in the suit. Gray argues the entire suit should be tossed.
The Department of Labor sued the broadcaster last fall, alleging workers there received less than federal minimum wage and weren’t paid overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week. Authorities further accused the company of failing to keep adequate employee work-hour records.
The names of six former employees are listed along with the suit.
Gray disputed the allegations in an emailed statement to the Casper Star-Tribune: “This case involves one person and the sum of $2,300, but instead the Federal Government has used questionable tactics to increase the sum involved and to attempt to scare me, a small business owner. It’s an example of the Federal Government trying to be involved in every aspect of our society.”
In Casper, Mt. Rushmore O&O’s KVOC-AM, KMLD-FM, KHOC-FM, KQLT FM and KASS-FM. It also has stations in Rawlins, WY and in South Dakota.
In comments made after the lawsuit first came to light, Gray blamed the allegations on disgruntled employees. He labeled the claims “bogus and unfortunate.”
The court documents filed this week don’t challenge the allegations themselves. Instead, they argue the charges should be tossed for technical reasons. They contend the workers did not bring their claims within the proper time frame required by law. Depending on the type of violation, that period can either be two or three years. Some allegations date back as far as 2008.
Gray and his attorney also cited an exemption to the overtime provisions included in the labor standards law. The exemption covers announcers, news editors and chief engineers at radio or television stations in cities of fewer than 100,000 people. Both sides met in May in an attempt to settle the case, to no avail.
RBR-TVBR observation: Wyoming is a right-to-work state and labor laws there do favor the employer. However, this is a federal case. If the case gets heard and because the employee is obviously paid hourly, the lack of adequate record-keeping of hours worked could actually play well for him or her—and the federal suit. If the court finds the employee was eligible for overtime pay and there are no written records, he/she entitled to describing their best recollection of hours worked. Courts are often realistic about the limits of records and the importance of individuals’ memories in calculating overtime hours and therefore damages.