Ralph Barbieri, a former radio host for KNBR in San Francisco for 28 years, is suing the radio station for $10 million for wrongful termination after he was fired in April.
The situation with Barbieri's firing is very sticky. The station claims they fired Barbieri for coming to work late and not preparing for his shows, which Barbieri responded to by saying he never had to prepare for his show during the entire tenure of his time at KNBR. Barbieri's claim is that KNBR fired him after he released the information that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease and Type 2 Diabetes in October 2011. The network renewed Barbieri's contract a month later, and claimed they wanted to keep him on staff in spite of his condition.
Barbieri also contends KNBR management, particularly Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey, market manager Bill Bungeroth, and operations manager Lee Hammer, got on his case for his performance related to his illness, including chiding him for sounding unenergetic and needing to take bathroom breaks because of his medication.
Barbieri took the air yesterday on a competitor to KNBR to give his side of the story. Most of the reaction seemed to indicate that Barbieri's apperance did more to hurt his case in the court of public opinion. Also, many noticed that his voice and delivery was noticeably different than his time at KNBR, presumably due to his ailments.
Helping Barbieri's cause is the fact that his show was either number one or two in its timeslot, although some of that can be credited to his co host Tom Tolbert and the fact that KNBR is usually 1 or 2 in every timeslot in the Bay Area. The lack of preparing and showing up late was nothing new so KNBR will have to show documented instances of warning Barbieri so it doesn't look like a cover story for a dismissal based on other motives.
The general reaction locally in the Bay Area has been mostly supportive of the move. Barbieri was a very acquired taste with his long winded questions, lack of knowledge, and at times dismissiveness for many sports. He often spoke more than and over the people he interviewed and he generally just seemed constantly disgruntled regardless of the topic.
Each party is going to have a tough time making a definitive case, so this might be headed towards a settlement. Barbieri and his legal team are almost signaling as much having opened with an outrageous number like $10,000,000 when his salary was around $300,000. Maybe KNBR can settle for a lifetime supply of Amici's Pizza, a company he shilled for decades.
It's hard to determine whether or not KNBR fired Barbieri because of illness, but this is a much different situation from 2005, when KNBR fired host Larry Krueger for insensitive comments made about race and the Giants. Barbieri's is certainly a sensitive situation that'll be interesting to witness as it evolves.
[h/t: SF Gate]