A Delaware Chancery Court judge has approved an agreement preventing further layoffs at News 12 Networks until a September trial in a lawsuit brought by the Dolan family against News 12 owner Altice USA Inc., according to court documents.
“During the pendency of this action in this court, Altice shall not terminate any News 12 employee other than for actual, bona fide cause or after first obtaining prior permission from the court,” reads the agreement signed by Judge Joseph R. Slights III and filed on Wednesday.
In September, Cablevision founder Charles F. Dolan and members of his family filed suit against Altice, alleging it laid off News 12 employees in violation of the 2016 sales agreement under which Altice's parent, Altice N.V. of the Netherlands, purchased Cablevision Systems Corp. of Bethpage for $17.7 billion.
The trial is scheduled for Sept. 4-6 in Wilmington, Delaware. However, it won’t take place if Altice successfully argues at an April 22 hearing that the suit should be dismissed.
In the suit, the Dolans said Altice USA has already cut 70 News 12 jobs and will cut “an additional 10 percent of the staff in each successive year” in violation of the sales agreement. The Dolans sought a temporary restraining order to prevent further layoffs.
Altice USA spokeswoman Lisa Anselmo said Wednesday, “We’re pleased that we can proceed to trial and defend against the false allegations in the lawsuit.”
She also pointed to an Oct. 17 memo to News 12 staff from Altice USA News president Michael Schreiber, in which he said, “I want to assure you that there are no plans for significant personnel changes at News 12 – in fact, I expect we will increase our staffing from current levels.”
Patrick Dolan, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and former News 12 president, said on Wednesday, “Today’s ruling effectively prevents Altice from laying off any current News 12 staff member unless there is a performance issue and prior approval is obtained from the court.” Dolan now owns Newsday Media Group.