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Journalists Win Class-Action Lawsuit Against LA Times Over Unequal Pay Dispute

— November 11, 2020

The Los Angeles Times and Tribune Publishing recently agreed to settle a lawsuit with a group of journalists over a pay dispute.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times and Tribune Publishing agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by a multiethnic group of journalists who claimed they were “paid less than their white male counterparts.” The suit, which was filed in San Bernadino County Superior Court back in June, accused the defendants of gender, ethnic, and race discrimination.

Writer typing on a typewriter
Writer typing on a typewriter; image courtesy of via Unsplash,

Preliminary approval was granted last month by Judge David Cohn. Additionally, he “certified a class of nearly 240 current and former reporters and editors who would be eligible for back pay.” In fact, as part of the settlement, “every Black and Latino reporter, copy editor and line editor employed by The Times from Feb. 14, 2015, to Oct. 26, 2020, could receive a portion of the award.” Additionally, any woman who worked as a reporter during the same period would also be covered. At the moment, a hearing is scheduled for March where Judge Cohn is expected to give his final approval.

Why was the suit filed, though? What happened, exactly? Well, according to the suit, The Times violated California’s Equal Pay Act and California’s Business and Professions Code. The dispute began in 2018, and at that time the paper was owned by Tribune. After years of “mismanagement and stagnant pay,” the newsroom grew frustrated and “voted to join the NewsGuild sector of the Communications Workers of America…The Times’ nascent guild demanded that Tribune provide salary data for newsroom employees.

Allegations began circulating that the “salaries of women and people of color lagged behind those of white male colleagues.” An investigation into the matter found those allegations to be true, according to Bettina Boxall, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the lead plaintiff in the class-action suit. She was eventually joined by “reporters Greg Braxton and Paloma Esquivel, former reporter Angel Jennings, copy editor Angela Jamison, and Deputy Metro Editor Bobbie “B.J.” Terhune.”

After the settlement announcement, Boxall said that taking the lead on the class-action suit “was one of the proudest moments in her 33-year career at The Times.” She added, “This puts the company on notice that women and people of color have to be valued — and paid — just as much as white men.”

Of the settlement funds, about $1.9 million will be split between class-action members and another $1 million would go towards attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs were represented by Michael Morrison, a partner in the Century City law firm Alexander, Morrison & Fehr. When commenting on the settlement, he said:

“I’m very pleased that both Tribune and the L.A. Times decided to settle this early on, and that it wasn’t a long, drawn-out process…It’s best to put this matter behind us and allow people to focus on what they do best, which is to write and edit great stories.”

Despite agreeing to the recent settlement, the two companies have not admitted any wrongdoing and claim they never violated state law. When commenting on the case, Hillary Manning, a spokeswoman for The Times, said:

“The claims date back a number of years to previous ownership. We’re pleased that the judge gave preliminary approval to the settlement and that the matter is headed toward a resolution.”


L.A. Times and Tribune agree to settle pay-disparity lawsuit for $3 million

United States: Los Angeles Times to pay settlement in lawsuit on pay disparity

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