SPRINGFIELD - A state appellate court says a former husband-wife anchor team for a Champaign-area television station should get a lower court hearing on their breach-of-contract lawsuit.
The 4th District Appellate court decision reverses a Champaign County judge's ruling granting summary judgment to Nexstar Broadcasting in the lawsuit brought by former WCIA-Channel 3 anchors Jerry Slabe and Marta Carreira-Slabe.
The couple were fired from WCIA more than five years ago after refusing to comply with Nexstar's edict that they increase the number of hours they worked.
The Slabes cited contracts signed in 1997 with previous station owner Midwest Television Inc., which sold WCIA to Nexstar in July 1999. Jerry Slabe said Friday that Nexstar was unwilling to negotiate a new agreement.
"It was never about the hours, it was always about the principle," Marta Carreira-Slabe added. "About them coming in and … unilaterally changing the rules without regard for agreements or promises."
Jerry Slabe, who had worked for WCIA since 1977, was working about 25 hours while his contract paid him $2,450 a week. Carreira-Slabe, who had worked at the station since 1986, made $935 a week for about 17 hours as part of a three-year contract.
Nexstar told the couple they'd be working longer hours beginning in January 2000. When the Slabes didn't report for their new hours, Nexstar placed them on administrative leave and eventually stopped paying them. They were fired in June 2000.
The appellate court ruled Nexstar's requirement that the Slabes significantly increase their working hours "was inconsistent with Jerry's and Marta's employment history and their reasonable expectations and was a violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing."
Messages left Friday at Irving,Texas-based Nexstar were not immediately returned.
Carreira-Slabe said Nexstar has until Dec. 21 to ask the state Supreme Court to take up the appeal, but said the appellate decision, which came on Nov. 30, is promising.