AURN/Sheridan Broadcasting Sued Over Employee Plan Payments

Story by Inside Radio

Pittsburgh-based privately held Sheridan Broadcasting Networks has been sued by trustees of both the AFTRA Retirement Fund and the SAG-AFTRA Health Fund. The claim is that Sheridan has failed to pay required contributions to the employee plans.

Filed March 15 in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, those overseeing the multi-employer health and retirement plans allege that Sheridan owes contributions to the funds, as required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and following collective bargaining agreements between Sheridan and SAG-AFTRA—the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents station employees.

According to the suit, ERISA cites Sheridan’s failure as an “employer who is obligated to make contributions to a multi-employer plan under the terms of the plan or under the terms of a collectively bargained agreement to make such contributions in accordance with the terms and conditions of such plan or such agreement.” Sheridan, the plaintiffs state, has failed “to pay delinquent contributions owed to the Funds.”

Under law, AFTRA and SAG-AFTRA insist, the court should award the plans unpaid contributions, interest on those contributions, legal costs and “liquidated damages provided for under the plan in an amount not in excess of 20% of the unpaid contributions.” Sheridan has been given 21 days to respond to the charges.

The lawsuit is the latest conundrum for the struggling broadcast company. It follows Sheridan’s filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in March 2016. The then-majority owner of American Urban Radio Networks, Sheridan owns gospel and R&B oldies stations in Atlanta, Birmingham and Buffalo, NY.

Sheridan and AURN co-owner NBN had earlier decided to separate by March 1 with Sheridan agreeing to make three payments to acquire the remainder of AURN. After making two payments, Sheridan requested more time to deliver the third, threatening to file for bankruptcy protection if an extension wasn’t granted. The extension was denied and Sheridan subsequently followed through on that action.


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