April's Still Suing KOMO

This time in a different court.

It has a lot to do with appearances, but the legal claims lodged by fired KOMO-TV reporter April Zepeda—breach of contract, retaliation, and discrimination—are disputes best heard by a federal judge, says the station's owner, Fisher Communications. Late last month, the broadcasting corporation requested that Zepeda's ongoing King County Superior Court lawsuit be transferred to U.S. District Court, where, says an attorney familiar with the case, KOMO apparently figures it could do better under federal labor-management laws that tend to favor employers. The 40-year-old Zepeda and two other KOMO reporting veterans, Kevin Reece and Joe Furia, were abruptly fired in May because the station told them it was moving in another direction (hint: younger, fresher faces). Employed by KOMO since 1996, Zepeda signed her latest contract in February. In April, she complained about overtime, for which she was not always compensated, states her lawsuit. On April 20, she was called into a meeting with new News Director Holly Gauntt and told to wear more makeup and dress in a way to emphasize her small stature, Zepeda claims. Zepeda followed that advice, as well as suggestions on how to move around and become "more physically active on camera." She also became more active in labor issues, and on April 30 volunteered to be the union shop steward, she says. Zepeda was fired along with Reece and Furia about a week later. Reece and Furia accepted separation agreements with the station, but Zepeda is seeking unspecified damages for wrongful termination. KOMO will not comment on personnel matters, but court papers note that the terms and conditions of her employment (and potential unemployment) were governed by contract.

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