Today Show co-host Ann Curry tearfully announced that she would no longer be part of the morning program's family on Thursday. She was reportedly one year into a 3-year contract when the network decided to buy her out amid a ratings decline. The 55-year-old newswoman was replaced by 40-year-old Savannah Guthrie who most recently was the Chief Legal Analyst.
Initially, there does not appear to be any legal issues with the Today Show change. In California, an employee is considered an "at-will" employee unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. This means that either the employee or the employer can end the employment relationship at anytime, without cause.
Of course, there are legal limitations on reasons that an employee can be terminated. Firing an employee because of his or her race, gender, national origin, disability, religion and certain other protected categories is not allowed and doing so may give rise to a wrongful termination or wrongful discharge claim.
In Curry's case, she was under contract to serve as the co-host of the Today show. Initial reports claim that Curry was offered a $10 million buyout to leave the morning program and to take a new position as NBC is repositioning her from the morning program to an NBC News National and International Correspondent/Anchor and "Today" Anchor at Large.
Curry announced her own departure on Thursday's show, clarifying a week's worth of rumors about her continued employment relationship with NBC.
The Today Show is broadcast from New York.
Source: Time, "Ann Curry's Today Show Exit: 8 Famous Contract Buyouts," Stephanie Abrahams, June 28, 2012