Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, May 27 2005
By: Mike Austerman
It’s not the kind of publicity that country WYCD-FM (99.5) was looking for. This week, a federal jury in Detroit awarded $10.6 million to former midday air talent Erin Weber who was fired by the station in 2001 — after complaining that a co-worker’s perfume made her sick. Weber charged that she’d been discriminated against after she suffered disabling complications from an allergic reaction to the perfume of her afternoon co-worker. Doctors later determined that her sensitivity was brought on after exposure to acetone (nail polish remover) spilled in a WYCD studio in 1999.
Weber’s suit claimed her violent reaction to the chemical caused burns in her airways, vocal-cord swelling, difficulty in breathing and laryngitis. After missing work and calling in sick for a weekend airshift in 2001, she was fired, despite top ratings and a successful career at the station. Weber also claimed she was retaliated against because she filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission while still employed. In addition, she claimed that her $66,000 annual salary was two to three times less than those of her male counterparts.
An all-woman jury awarded Weber nearly $1.6 million for lost pay and benefits, $2 million for distress and stuck a $7 million price tag on punitive damages against Infinity Broadcasting, WYCD’s owner. That $7 million will likely be reduced to $300,000 by the judge, as federal law limits the amount of punitive damages in cases such as this. The jury further decided that Infinity did not violate the Family Medical Leave Act or discriminate against Weber because of her gender. Infinity spokeswoman Karen Mateo says the company planned to appeal.
The folks at XM satellite radio have been celebrating after announcing they’ve now signed up more than 4 million subscribers and are on their way to 5.5 million by year-end. They’ll get help from carmaker Hyundai, as that company will add XM as an option this fall instead of rival Sirius; a survey of Hyundai owners showed they’d prefer XM to avoid hearing shock jock Howard Stern when he lands at Sirius in 2006. Just how many of Stern’s listeners will follow him to Sirius? An Edison Research Study says 1 in 5 are likely to follow him to the satcaster. Wonder how many people that is anyhow?
John Mason of urban oldies WDMK-FM (102.7) takes his morning show on the road and live to the Motown Historical Museum in Detroit every Saturday in June. Broadcasting from the West Grand Boulevard site of musical memories, he'll have interviews, musicians, prizes and more.
Soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1) will celebrate its fourth annual “Women Who Make Magic Awards” by paying tribute to the 34 nominees at a special banquet June 6 at Andiamo’s in Warren. The program recognizes area women who have made a little “Magic” in the lives of others; since January, the station has honored two local women each Friday from listener nominations. Each woman took home a $50 Kroger gift certificate and two tickets to the banquet. Donny Osmond will present the honorees with plaques and sing a few songs from his new album, “What I Meant to Say.”
Thanks to all-news WWJ-AM (950) morning drive producer Scott Ryan for pointing out that last week’s column failed to mention that WWJ anchor Pat Vitale also can been seen as a reporter for WJBK-Channel 2. My favorite TV reporter with a radio background? Fox 2’s Jennifer Hammond, who once did sports updates on WDFN-AM (1130) before moving to the small screen.
Set Your Dials: “Somewhere in Time” hosts Tom Wilson and Alison Harris try their luck singing along with Mitch Miller on WMUZ-FM (103.5) at 6 p.m. Sunday.