ABC could have nipped the T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach scandal in the bud sooner, according to an employment attorney. The former co-anchors of GMA3: Everything You Need To Know parted ways with the network after they were taken off air when photos of them getting cozy were published in the media. Their alleged affair became public in November and they were quickly taken off the air pending an internal investigation while a series of anchors filled in for them.
ABC News President Kim Godwin confirmed Holmes and Robach’s departure last week in a memo to staff. The news was then released publicly via a spokesperson.
"After several productive conversations with Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes, about different options, we all agreed it's best for everyone that they move on from ABC News," an ABC News spokesperson said. "We recognize their talent and commitment over the years and are thankful for their contributions."
However, Kamran Shahabi, an employment attorney and partner at Valiant Law, thinks ABC had caught wind of the affair much sooner than it admitted, and had the chance to put out any fires earlier.
"I anticipate ABC knew a whole lot more about the relationship than they're letting on and should have acted much sooner before the 'c*** hit the fan.' The company will presumably attempt to deny 'actual' knowledge of their relationship to separate themselves from the bad publicity, but no reasonable person will believe that," he told Newsweek.
He advised that all companies no matter the size have clear policies in place "preventing such relationships."
"They should also periodically train their employees or upper management on the handling of such policy violations," Shahabi added. "As long as the company acts as quickly, efficiently and reasonably as possible, then under the law and public view, they've done what they can to address the issue – especially for a company of this size.
"Things get much worse when companies sit back and do nothing hoping the problem will go away or sweep it under the rug."
The matter could have been much worse for ABC after Holmes and Robach also enlisted legal representation to protect themselves if they were fired.
"If ABC did not have any express policies against such conduct, and neither had supervisory authority or control over the other's employment (e.g., ability to promote, determine job duties, pay, etc.), and/or the company knew about their relationship but did nothing about it, then depending on the terms of their employment agreement, they could have maintained sufficient claims," Shahabi explained of the anchors' position during the investigation.
"When ABC announced its investigation, I anticipated both Robach and Holmes would leave and do so with confidential severance/settlement agreements and payouts to prevent formal litigation or arbitration of their claims."
"Both likely had complex written employment agreements and ABC was probably assessing whether they could or should terminate them... unless ABC had specific company policies against such relationships... what T.J. & Amy mutually did does not immediately amount to wrongful or unlawful conduct – or a terminable offense."
Their departure from ABC didn't seem to faze either Robach or Holmes, who couldn't keep their hands off each other when spotted in Los Angeles over the weekend.
Robach was married to actor Andrew Shue since 2010, but the couple reportedly separated in September. Holmes and his wife of almost 13 years, Marilee Fiebig, filed for divorce in January.