Firing's not her thing, but she'll try it tonight


There won't be a gardener in the whole conference room. Her name is mud with that set.

Sixteen candidates begin their televised quest to work for Martha Stewart, as her Apprentice reality show debuts tonight at 8 on NBC. Shorn of her electronic monitoring bracelet, the convicted felon springs into primetime with a spin-off of Donald Trump's Apprentice.

"Donald loves to fire people," Stewart told Time. "I find it an extremely unpleasant exercise. I have other people do it for me."

Well, she'll have to find the words to let people go. The contenders will be sequentially eliminated as they scrape for the $250,000-a-year job. The Sweet Sixteen, according to the show's Web site, includes a natural foods chef, Los Angeles prosecutor, Internet company owner, TV newscaster and, perhaps, an early favorite - an interior designer named Chuck.

But no gardener named, say, Renaldo Abreu.

In 1995, Abreu sued his employer, Martha Stewart. He claimed he often exceeded a 40-hour workweek while tending her grounds, washing her cars and grooming her pets - or perhaps he groomed her cars and washed her grounds. Whatever, he wanted $20,000 in overtime - an amount Stewart has probably spent on Q-Tips.

Stewart argued that her home is technically a farm and she wasn't obligated to pay overtime to an "agricultural worker."

Martha won, Renaldo lost - a real-life lesson for the reality-show candidates.

Take the money and walk the dog. Don't even think about overtime.

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