When all was said and done, it came down to the way KSL Radio treated Bob Schildmeyer on the day it laid him off.
But KSL General Manager Russ Wood said that if he had it to do all over again he would not have treated Schildmeyer any differently on that day.After listening to 11/2 days of testimony, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene ordered KSL Radio to hire Schildmeyer back at his previous salary until Schildmeyer's age-discrimination suit against the radio station has been resolved.
Schildmeyer was one of four reporters laid off by KSL Radio on April 26. Greene ordered the station to give Schildmeyer one of the three jobs it had opened up since the layoffs, because the station treated Schildmeyer differently from the other employees that day.
Station officials had ordered Schildmeyer to clean out his desk and leave the station immediately. They did not order the other laid-off employees to vacate the premises.
In an interview after Greene's ruling, Wood insisted, "Mr. Schildmeyer was treated very fairly and according to our policy," but he said the station would follow the court order.
After KSL laid off four reporters, it opened three similar jobs in the newsroom. KSL News Director Rod Arquette said Schildmeyer probably will be given the job of overnight editor, someone who remains at the station through the night to make certain all equipment and programs are running properly.
"He's the leading candidate," Arquette said.
Greene's ruling may not have been unexpected, but the rationale for it was. Schildmeyer had argued that he was laid off as an act of retaliation for a discrimination suit he filed two years ago against the station. His retaliation claim centered around threats a Bonneville International attorney made to him on March 7 following a court hearing on the suit.
But Greene was unmoved by those threats. He concluded that the attorney, Boyd Hawkins, did not have the power at KSL Radio to carry out his threat to "get Bob Schildmeyer's head under our heel and crush it."
Greene also ruled that Schildmeyer's dismissal probably had nothing to do with his age. "I think the evidence is overwhelming that there is a financial crisis" at KSL, he said.
Greene predicted Schildmeyer would lose his age-discrimination suit. "There is not even a reasonable probability of success," he said in his ruling. But he set a Nov. 18 trial date for the suit.
Schildmeyer's attorney, Zane Gill, said Greene's comment would worry him if he were going to try the case before Greene. "A jury may well have a different view," Gill said.
The hearing proved to be a no-holds barred look at some of Salt Lake City's most prominent radio personalities. Radio personality "Hawk" Mendenhall challenged Arquette's integrity. Sexual remarks Arquette allegedly made to former reporter Charla Haley became a secondary focus in the hearing.
Wood said he instructed Arquette to "cool it" after hearing about the remarks. Arquette testified that Haley's complaint of harassment "scared the daylights out of me" and he regretted hurting her. Hours of testimony centered around Schildmeyer's reporting style and on-air personality.
The hearing also revealed a four-year financial crisis at KSL radio. Wood said he laid off six employees on April 26 in an effort to shave $150,000 from the station's budget. The station must whittle $400,000 from its budget this year to stay in the black, he said.
In recent years, the station had reduced some departments by 50 percent in response to a drastic drop in advertising revenue. The station had dropped $1.4 million in revenue during recent years, KSL attorney Clark Waddoups said.