LA Times, Tribune to pay $3M to settle pay discrimination suit

The Los Angeles Times and Tribune Publishing have jointly agreed to pay $3 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by multi-ethnic group of journalists who claimed that they were systematically paid less than their white male counterparts.

The settlement is the latest in a series of race-related turmoil that’s roiled the publishing world amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May.

The suit, which staffers filed in June shortly after protests began, covers nearly 240 current and former reporters and editors who will now be eligible for compensation if they were employed by the company between Feb. 14, 2015, to Oct. 26, 2020.

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge David Cohn gave preliminary approval to the proposed settlement to claims of gender, race and ethnic discrimination, the LA Times reported.

Black and Latino reporters, copy editors and line editors as well as all women reporters and editors were covered by preliminary settlement. Cohn is expected to give final approval in March.

Even before the summer of discontent, one of the hottest jobs in media in recent years has been the chief diversity officer as companies strive to show they are making diversity a C-level problem. Publishing companies have long been susceptible to criticism that they’re far less diverse than the world they cover.

On Monday, Group Nine, publisher of Now This, Thrillist, Seeker and the Dodo, promoted Fanta Camara, the human resources business partner for NowThis, as its head of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Conde Nast in September said it hired Yashica Olden from WPP’s global cultural team to be the company’s first-ever global chief diversity and inclusion officer. Olden started the new job Oct. 26.

Conde, which publishes Vogue and The New Yorker, snagged Olden after coming under fire from employees past and present for racial discrimination in hiring and pay discrimination against people of color, which put 70-year-old Anna Wintour, longtime Vogue editor and Conde’s artistic director, under intense pressure.

But it’s not just the publishing world that’s beefing up its diversity hires. Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith, publisher of Real Simple and People magazines, just lost its diversity and inclusion officer, Shona Pinnock, to luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton. “We’re in the process of conducting a search for her successor,” said a Meredith spokeswoman.

And in 2018 Erika Irish Brown was snatched by Goldman Sachs after spending three-plus years as Bloomberg’s first-ever global head of diversity and inclusion.

Michele Magazine, who runs Michele Magazine Executive Search, said that while diversity has gotten more press this year it’s been a problem that the media has worked to correct for years.

“Maybe it is enlightened self interest,” Magazine said, “but I think there is a genuine desire to get it right.”

William J. Milani, who runs the employment, labor and management practice at the law firm Epstein Becker Green, says the media business may not be any worse at diversity than other industries, but it is in the public eye more.

“The media world, whether it’s print, or social media or television is important and in the public eye — and because of that it gets more public scrutiny,” he said.

That’s not to say he thinks the media world’s efforts to increase diversity is for show. It’s “not window dressing and I don’t think it is something that is going to go away in a few months” because “there are studies that show that entities that are diverse outperform those that are not.”

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