By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
The FCC announced on Monday (5/4) a policy that will relieve broadcasters of wide-dissemination EEO obligations in rehiring laid-off employees in a post-shutdown world. Because of the significant economic hit taken by broadcasters when so many advertisers pulled their advertising schedules as so many businesses shut down, many broadcasters who did not receive PPP loans were forced to lay off employees in order to be able to afford to continue operating. As the economy recovers, it is hoped, some of those employees can be rehired. The FCC Media Bureau’s order released (5/4) may make some of that hiring somewhat easier.
The decision yesterday allowed broadcasters who were forced to terminate employees because of the pandemic to rehire those same employees at some point in the future (within 9 months of the time that they were laid off), without having to go through the “wide dissemination” that the FCC rules normally require before an employment vacancy is filled. Normally, the FCC requires that before filling any full-time employment vacancy, a broadcaster must advertise broadly to reach all groups within its community to inform them of the job opening to insure a pool of diverse recruits from which to fill that position (see our article here on the wide dissemination requirement). Under this decision, the FCC will allow broadcasters to simply rehire an employee who was let go – without any wide dissemination of the job opening – if economic conditions allow for their re-hiring within 9 months of when they were first laid off.
This will allow broadcasters to rehire much more quickly if business rebounds without having to go through the broad outreach recruiting efforts when conditions permit stations to resume their normal operations. Having to go through the outreach process could lead to wasting the time of potential applicants who might apply for a position where there was already someone who the broadcaster knew was “right for the job” as they had previously held the exact same position. Seemingly, it would also provide more hope to employees who were laid off during the pandemic that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel if their employment was terminated solely because of the deteriorating economic conditions – and that there may be a position to return to if the economy rebounds. In all, some more welcome relief for broadcast employers and employees in these uncertain times.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
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