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.”

(snip)

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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