In the thirteen years I’ve worked as a broadcast meteorologist, I have never had to sign a contract. I quickly learned that I was in the vast minority. I was lucky enough a few weeks ago to receive an email from Tiffany Sunday, a digital media strategist. She was the lead speaker and host for the 2012 NWA Social Media Boot Camp and has experience in contract law, IP rights and the intangible value of social media. In the evolving field of broadcast meteorology, experts like Tiffany are now essential in helping steer the course for successful broadcast careers and preparing us for where technology is taking us. I thought I’d ask her a few questions to help clear up a few things for TV meteorologists starting out. She was gracious enough to offer some very valuable information.
1. Most broadcast meteorologists starting out feel like they need to sign whatever contract comes their way in their first job. Do you feel like that is true, and what are some things they should look out for? Do they really have room for negotiation, and what kinds of things should they be asking for?
Yes, you will be required to sign an employment contract. As a general rule, most individuals have little negotiating power when starting their career. However, you can gain an advantage by developing an impressive brand package (demo, resume, social media and website) and acquiring on-air experience both in studio and live feeds.
Negotiation Recommended Reading:
Before you sign the contract, make sure you review the following items:
State Law: conduct a Google search to determine if your state is an “At Will Work State”. For example, Texas is an At-Will employment state which means hiring and firing is at will. The employer can fire at will meaning without reason.
Always read the entire employment contract before signing. Never sign any contract without reading it first! Once the contract is signed it becomes a legal binding agreement between you and the station’s owners.
Understand the station’s policy on what is consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Most contracts for talent (broadcasters, personalities and actors) describe what behaviors are deemed unacceptable by the station’s management and penalties for these behaviors. Stations have recently added sections to the contract about social media accounts and content postings.
Read these section carefully, multiple times if needed and always take notes. Ask for a signed copy of the contract for your records. Does the contract mention outside work conflicts and approvals? Most broadcast meteorologists have second jobs to supplement their income when they are launching their careers. Understand the approval process of securing a second job and if there are any ongoing requirements. Check for outside work restrictions and non-compete agreements.
Arbitration Clause – It is important that you understand how disputes will be handled and how these proceedings will be conducted.
For Met techies and entrepreneurs, if you are developing a new weather technology make sure you do all your work on a personal computer not on the station’s computer. It is a grey area concerning who owns the IP especially if the new idea or application is work related such as a new weather app. Always check with an IP attorney if you have questions.
2. I’ve had entry-level mets ask me what is the worst that could happen if they decide to break a contract. Can they really be held to them?
Employment contracts are binding and if the broadcaster wanted to break the contract, the best advice would be to consult with an employment attorney. Depending on the situation, the station could file a breach of contract lawsuit against the broadcaster. The station may select not to enforce the binding contract; however, this will be at the station’s discretion.
My advice for future broadcasters is to make sure you want this position before you sign the contract. If you are thinking,” I’ll take this job for a couple of months and then when something better comes along I’ll break the contract”, reconsider the job. Consult with a trusted advisor and attorney before you break an employment contract. This contract is a legal binding agreement.
Secondly, when you are starting your career you want to avoid having a reputation of breaking contracts. Once this reputation is established it can be difficult to overcome and can greatly impact your ability to work in the future.
Tiffany Sunday has a great site at tiffanysunday.com with essential information for meteorologists on broadcasting and social media. Next week, Tiffany will post about the importance of social media and building your personal brand. Be sure to check it out.