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Monday, June 18, 2012

Ralph Barbieri Files Suit Against KNBR, Parent Companies

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge Is "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly" admissable in court? - CBS5
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  • Is "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly" admissable in court?

The law offices of Angela Alioto confirmed today that papers have been filed inaugurating Ralph Barbieri's wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer KNBR and its parent companies.

Barbieri, a ubiquitous voice on Bay Area airwaves for nearly three decades, was abruptly dismissed by the sports radio station in April in a procedure he said took about seven minutes -- which, he later quipped, translated to about four years of employment per minute of dismissal.

"Razor Voice" was 66 years old at the time of his firing, and had publicly acknowledged he has Parkinson's Disease.

His attorney, Alioto, has claimed Barbieri was dismissed due to age discrimination and disability discrimination, which constitutes a breach of contract.

Calls to KNBR have not yet been returned. Bill Bungeroth, vice president and market manager for Cumulus Media, a KNBR parent company, previously released a statement claiming "The simple fact is that Ralph refused to honor some of the most basic terms of his contract.... It is completely implausible that the termination of Ralph's contract had anything to do with his age or the fact he was diagnosed with Parkinson's."

SF Weekly has not yet obtained a copy of the suit, which is not available on the San Francisco Superior Court website. Calls to Alioto have not yet been returned.

This story will be updated when we learn more.

Update, 3:25 p.m.: The Barbieri suit vs. KNBR, several iterations of Cumulus media, Susquehanna Corp., and KNBR/Cumulus  higher-ups Bill Bungeroth and Lee Hammer can be viewed here

The suit notes Barbieri's first radio gig, in Hawaii in 1977, earned him three bucks an hour. His most recent contract earned him $380,000 yearly. But, "whether at $3.00 an hour or $380,000 a year, Barbieri loved his job."

The suit claims Barbieri's employers have a "demonstrated history" of dismissing older and unhealthy employees. It cites several alleged instances in which Bungeroth, Hammer, or others question Barbieri's energy level, including a July 22, 2011 meeting at which Bungeroth purportedly bellowed "You don't have any energy. What's wrong with you? What you are doing on the air, sucks. This is not going to happen on my watch." Then, in an allusion to the upstart KNBR competitor that has made its supposed youthful vigor a calling card, "I am not going to let 95.7 get the best of us."

This meeting and other cited instances of management telling Barbieri to ratchet up his energy level came prior to his August 2011 revelation he has Parkinson's.

Following that date, Barbieri claims management began making an issue out of when he showed up to do his 3 p.m. show, which he says was previously never an issue. At one point, the suit claims, management presented to Barbieri a listing of exactly when his car arrived in the station's parking lot -- a compilation that began in the days after he disclosed his health condition.

Throughout this barrage of alleged vindictiveness, the suit claims, Barbieri's "The Razor and Mr. T." show was receiving stellar ratings.

Among Barbieri's 11 complaints are disability discrimination; breach of contract; age discrimination; fraud; and wrongful termination. The suit seeks $10 million in damages -- which is a step up from both Barbieri's most recent salary and what he used to pull down in Hawaii.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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