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Television Show Writer Claims Wrongful Termination


During the holiday season, the last thing than either an employer or an employee wants to deal with is a layoff or termination. However, reductions in force are dictated by market fluctuations, regardless of the calendar date. Sometimes, the free market may require an employer to make an adverse employment action around the holidays.

In today’s story, the man who adapted “The Walking Dead” television series on the AMC channel from its comic book roots has brought a lawsuit against the cable channel. The man, Frank Darabont, was employed through the show’s first season. However, he claims he was wrongfully terminated when the show started to take off in popularity, just before the beginning of the second season. 

A forward-looking employer might have established protocols for handling reduction in force or severance. Yet questions might still arise about the best manner to approach the situation, in terms of public relations and consumer goodwill, as well as to avoid a potential employment discrimination lawsuit.

In this case, the starting point for any inquiry will be the specific employment contract between AMC and Darabont, which may describe that nature of his employment. If the employee was at-will, a termination generally need not be supported by cause. Furthermore, even if an employment contract failed to designate an employee as at-will, the presumption under Maryland law is that any unspecified employment relationship was at-will.

Of course, that presumption can be overcome with evidence supporting a different employment arrangement, such as an independent contractor or an executive hired for a minimum number of years. 

Source: Upstart Business Journal, “The Walking Dead's former writer and director sues AMC for profits,” Teresa Novellino