Hearne: Star Publisher Drops Furlough Bomb on News Staff, Self

furloughThis just in…

The bad news beat goes on at the Kansas City Star. Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish emailed staffers today that they would get a second week of unpaid vacation this year.

“While we have had many signs of recovery, we continue to track below prior year revenue,” it begins. “As such, the decision has been made to require a one-week furlough in the second half of the year.

“Most full-time employees  at The Kansas City Star will be required to take the furlough…”

Hold it right there and brace yourselves for a humility check.

Watson's Girl & ZeimanBecause unlike her predecessor former Star publisher Mark Zieman – a man not exactly known for his unbridled humility – Parrish is about to do the unthinkable and fall on the furlough sword herself.

“Including me,” her last sentence ends.

Yep. For the first time I can remember the publisher is telling news staffers she too will take off for a week without pay.

Which is interesting, to say the least.

Because Star staffers on furlough are said to follow rigid rules of not coming into the office, not checking their work email or voice mails, not doing nuttin’

Probably because of labor laws that could put the company at peril.


“The greatest danger of a wage and hour class or collective action arising from a furlough ‘is probably the claim that the employer has negated the exempt status of its salaried workers by making improper deductions based on either partial-week furloughs or else suffering or permitting exempt workers to engage in productive activity such as sending and receiving work-related e-mails during a full-week furlough and not paying the salary,’ according to Paul DeCamp, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., area office of Jackson Lewis and a former administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, the chief office responsible for interpreting and enforcing the FLSA…” writes Allen Smith on Warn Lawyers.com. “When a furlough is for less than a full workweek and a salaried exempt worker performs any work during that week, a private-sector employer must pay the exempt employee’s full weekly salary, Decamp added. Most companies furlough salaried exempt workers only in increments of full workweeks because of the salary basis concern, according to DeCamp.”

In other words, performing work or duties while on furlough could be risky.


Star editor Mike Fannin, Director General Jack J.C. Yang of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and Star publisher Mi-Ai Parrish in January of this year. Notice the freebie Star cartoon umbrella they fed Yang to the lower right

What’s significant here is that as the Star‘s publisher, Parrish is in the unique position of being accountable for each and every aspect of the Kansas City Star, 24/7.

For every single, solitary thing that comes up, seen or unforeseen, no matter what.

For example, what if Star sports scribe Sam Mellinger goes postal on 610 Sports and alleges that editor Mike Fannin is having another affair with a subordinate at the newspaper (like former Star sport Jason Whitlock did)?

Is Parrish gonna ride that one out for a week?

Can the newspaper afford to let the captain of the ship leave her post mid voyage? Can the coach abandon the sidelines and pop up to the owner’s suite for a brewsky and a hotdog during the third quarter of an important game?

We’ll see.

one_more_thing_steve_jobs_action_figure_2Oh and – as Steve Jobs liked to say – one more thing.

Why are furloughs such a significant part of the newspaper’s sinking ship strategy? Two reasons. First, it enables them to make serious cuts without actually laying any actual reporters off and thus cutting staff.

And second…

“Companies that need to implement furloughs generally need to conserve cash immediately, thus the need to eliminate the need to pay workers the full weekly salary, DeCamp explained.”

6a00e553c01b4b8833012875c23775970c-800wi-1There is one upside for staffers forced to play the Star’s furlough game.

“Use the furlough as the reason to start a home business,” advises empowernetwork.com. “Don’t let a furlough steal your dreams. Use the free time to better your financial future.”



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13 Responses to Hearne: Star Publisher Drops Furlough Bomb on News Staff, Self

  1. the dude says:

    Go fly a kite, actually involve yourself in your kid’s daily lives, build that boat in the basement you have been dreaming of building. So many things to do with that week of unpaid leave, so many things…

  2. Danimal says:

    It’s hot and you’re gonna need a . . . furlough.

  3. the dude says:

    Ahhh yeah,
    Did you get those TPS reports revised the way I asked you to?
    Oh, and remember: next Friday… is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.
    Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to not come in this Saturday or the next week.
    Ah Yeah. Furlough.

  4. smartman says:

    Mi-ai will skirt the rules and take her furlough one day at a time as opposed to 5 straight days. Any takers?

  5. Danimal says:

    This would be much more interesting if we could somehow combine the picture of the Watson’s girl and the KU boobs story. Just Sayin.

  6. chuck says:

    I tell ya who needs a fu*kin furlough, Mark Zieman’s belt!

    How ’bout a fu*kin salad dude.

  7. chuck says:

    Why are those three K.C. Star wallahs standing in front of a picture of Emporia?

    Why does Mi-ai have her kid’s umbrella in the office?

    What is Mike Fanin’s left hand doing?

    Very disturbing picture.

  8. NewspaperDelivery says:

    Was told the Lenexa distribution warehouse is excluded since they are down so many routes.

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