Network 10 executive producer Maria Michael loses lawsuit
- Maria Michael lost lawsuit
- Network 10 taken to court
A former executive producer who worked on popular programs such as Bondi Rescue and The Living Room has lost a lawsuit against her former employer Network 10, amid claims she was owed almost $400,000.
Maria Michael had been employed by Network 10 for more than three decades and was earning more than $260,000 a year when she was made redundant in May 2020, marking an end to her ‘long and storied’ career.
Despite being paid out more than $255,000 in various termination entitlements, Ms Michael in 2020 launched legal action against Network 10 following a dispute over 12 weeks’ pay she was given as severance.
Ms Michael claimed in court she was instead entitled to 78 weeks’ pay – or $393,371 – because her employment was allegedly covered by the company’s enterprise agreement, which was enforced under Fair Work.
Justice John Snaden told the Federal Court of Australia on Friday that Ms Michael was not covered by the agreement when she was terminated, and was thus not owed the substantial payout she claimed to be.
‘The Enterprise Agreement did not cover – and, therefore, did not apply to – Ms Michael’s employment with Network 10. Network 10 was not obliged to pay her by way of severance,’ Justice Snaden told the court.
‘The Fair Work Act likely prohibits the court from making any award of costs; but, in the event that there might be some as-yet-unventilated reason to think otherwise, an application for costs may be made.’
Justice Snaden told the court that Ms Michael’s central contention was that she was employed in, or covered by, the classification of ‘Producer’ under the Award, and instead was an executive.
‘That Ms Michael occasionally applied herself to the discharge of non-managerial tasks – although undoubtedly to her credit – does not defer from that central reality,’ Justice Sanden said.
‘Ms Michael was not a production employee who, from time to time, also managed the creation of television shows; she was an executive who managed the production of television shows.
‘The major and substantial aspect of her employment was to manage production (either in-house or via third parties). That aspect did not align with any of the descriptions contained within the Award.
‘It follows – or, but for my earlier conclusion, would have followed – that Ms Michael was not employed as a ‘Producer’ (…) she was not amongst the cohort of employees who were ‘ … covered by classifications set out in the Award’.’
The court was told that during her time with Network 10, Ms Michaels was tasked with managing both the network’s shows and those produced externally, including Family Feud, Bondi Vet, and the Celebrity Name Game.
‘It is beyond doubt – and not really in contest – that Ms Michael’s role was one of significant seniority and importance to the production of Network 10’s broadcast content,’ Justice Snaden said.
‘She (also) operated outside the classical boundaries of Network 10’s other executive producers, who typically did not undertake ‘hands-on’ work. There is no doubt she performed more work ‘on the tools’ than her executive producer counterparts.’