Now They’ve Gone And Done It

News-Press now faces employment lawsuit over inaccurate time sheets

When the six walked out, it was bad.

When the rallies, town meetings, and signs sprouted like mushrooms – that too was bad.

Every resignation, and the attendant publicity – also not good.

An editorial staff so pissed and demoralized that they would turn to a union to solve their problems … very bad.

A successful union vote; very, very bad.

But now Ms. McCaw is in some real deep doo-doo.

Employees Sue Santa Barbara Paper

From the Associated Press October 12, 2006

SANTA BARBARA — About 200 past and current employees of the embattled Santa Barbara News-Press sued the paper Wednesday, contending that it failed to keep accurate time records and stiffed them out of overtime pay.

The suit alleges that the newspaper failed to pay overtime to employees who worked more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week. It also alleges that the News-Press did not provide its employees with meal and rest periods that are required by California law.

It is common for employers to unintentionally violate” technical portions of the state’s employment laws, said plaintiffs’ attorney Bruce Anticouni, who filed the lawsuit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. “However, in my opinion, the alleged News-Press violations appear to have been willful, which would allow for the award of penalties to the affected employees.”


This is one battle that cannot be won.

Wage and hour claims are an uphill battle for employers, who are considered guilty until they prove innocence. The laws strongly favor employees (as they should), and a defense must be flawless to be successful. Wage and hour claims are the modern day version of “whiplash.”

And the classification of employees as “managers” to avoid overtime is a common, and usually unlawful, practice in our industry. Prediction: Defending De La Guerra opens an artery of Benjamins significant even to a flush benefactress of community property laws, which will lead to serious consideration of a fire sale, only to be denied in a fit of pride. The winners; the employees. The biggest winner; the Mountie of Santa Barbara employment law, Bruce Anticouni.

Clarification: As mentioned by astute reader “not quite,” Mr. Anticouni is only representing Hildy Medina and is seeking class status for the alleged violations of California Labor laws. From the followup AP article:

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of former reporter Hildy Medina, seeks class-action status for as many as 200 past and present employees.

I spoke with Anticouni this afternoon, and he suggested other New-Press employees from outside the newsroom would also be joining in the action.

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