Judge to consider dismissal of former Fargo anchor’s bias suit

It's legal case that is winding it's way through the courts in a small TV market.

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But the Judge's decision could have impact on Talent suing their former stations across the country. 

An attorney representing a Fargo TV station being sued by former anchorwoman Robin Huebner told a federal judge Tuesday a decision to remove Huebner from the station’s 10 p.m. newscast and replace her with a woman about half her age did not constitute age discrimination.

“Employers need to have the right to make changes,” attorney Gina Janeiro told U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson.

Erickson heard arguments Tuesday on a defense motion to dismiss the case and will rule at a later date on whether a jury will be able to decide whether KXJB/KVLY TV illegally discriminated against Huebner on the basis of age and gender.

Huebner was 50 years old in 2011 when the station told her she was being moved from the 10 p.m. newscast to the 5:30 p.m. newscast and that Stephanie Goetz, who was in her mid-20s, would replace her in the 10 p.m. slot.

Huebner’s attorney, James Kaster, told Erickson on Tuesday that the station’s decision to shift Huebner to a different time slot and to cut her pay by about 39 percent was an undeserved demotion designed to make her quit.

He said the same was true for a subsequent proposal the station made to Huebner, which Kaster said would have required Huebner to work a longer workday than she did before any schedule changes had been proposed but receive no increase in pay.

Under that alternative proposal, Kaster said, Huebner would also have had to do reporting work, something she hadn’t done in 20 years.

Janeiro said under an arrangement Huebner worked out with earlier station management, she worked about 7½ hours per day, and the alternative proposal the station offered Huebner asked that she work full eight-hour days.

Kaster said Huebner was popular in ratings among female viewers ages 25 to 54, a demographic prized by advertisers. He said shifting her from the 10 p.m. news, which generated millions in revenue, to the 5:30 p.m. slot, which generated less than $160,000, “was clearly a demotion.”

Janeiro told Erickson shifting anchors around was nothing new at the station, and she said Huebner herself acknowledged changes happen all the time.

The problem, Janeiro said, is that Huebner didn’t like the change, felt it was a demotion and quit. Janeiro said there was no evidence Huebner was treated differently because of her age or gender.

More on the story from the Grand Forks Herald