Local TV woman sues station over contract termination fee

Kelly Holleran Oct. 23, 2008, 7:00am

A former KBTV NBC 4 morning show personality has filed suit against the station, claiming it is requiring her to pay $10,000 to resign.

Rocio Garza claims she became unhappy with the progress she was making at her job as an on-air performer in early 2008, but was told by the station's new general manager, Chris Pruitt, that she would be required to pay $10,000 if she decided to leave.

Pruitt replaced Van Greer, who had previously told Garza she would not be required to pay the money if she decided to leave, according to the complaint filed Oct. 21 in Jefferson County District Court.

The suit names Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., doing business as KBTV NBC 4, as defendant.

The written employment contract Garza signed requires her to pay the $10,000 in liquidated damages if she leaves before her employment term has ended, the suit states.

After Pruitt informed Garza she would have to pay the money, Garza decided to stay, the suit states.

In October, Garza claims she was demoted to weekend weather and was no longer allowed to appear on the morning show in apparent retaliation for her displeasure.

Garza decided to resign, but was again told she would have to pay the $10,000, according to the complaint.

She argues the liquidated damages are unenforceable because the Beaumont Court of Appeals has upheld a similar ruling.

In addition, the contract is illusory because the station only promised to keep Garza until June 14, the suit states. Because the station does not promise Garza a job, yet she is required to promise her services until 2010, the contract is unenforceable, the suit states.

Garza also claims that when the company demoted her, it breached the contract.

Garza seeks a declaratory judgment that rules the contract and its liquidated damages provision are unenforceable.

In addition, she seeks actual damages, attorney's fees, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court determines appropriate.

Wyatt D. Snider and Jason M. Byrd of Snider and Byrd in Beaumont will be representing her.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Milton Shuffield.

Case No. D182-571

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