Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fired reporter sues MediaNews for race bias

MediaNews Group and a paper it operates, the Monterey Herald, have been sued by a former reporter, Andre Briscoe, who claims he was discriminated against and ultimately fired because he is black and is a Guild officer.

The SF Weekly reported the story and here's a link to the complaint.

The complaint accuses MediaNews Group and the other defendants of discrimination, retaliation and "wrongful termination in violation of public policy."

The suit states that Briscoe, after a month-long tryout period, was assigned to the cop beat. Six months later, he was assigned to cover Pacific Grove. Then, six months later, he was covering Seaside.

Meanwhile, according to the suit, Briscoe became vice-chair of the local Guild unit and participated in contract negotiations, according to the suit.

Paragraph 19 of the lawsuit says: "When examining his salary history, Briscoe noticed that he was the lowest paid reporter at the Monterey County Herald. Briscoe was even being paid at a lower rate than the least two reporters who had less years of experience reporting."

"When examining his classification history, Briscoe realized that he was classified at a lower experience level than other reporters with less or similar experience upon being hired [by the Herald]," said paragraph 20 of the suit.

Briscoe brought his concerns to Gladys Valenzuela, the paper's HR person, on Jan. 7, 2008. Three days later "Briscoe arrived at work to find a letter from Valenzuela on his desk stating the company's position on the matter." The next day he was fired.

Briscoe took his complaint originally to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, which referred the case to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That state agency, after reviewing his claims, said he had a right to sue his employer. The suit seeks compensatory damages for lost wages, "general damages for mental and emotional distress," attorney's fees and punitive damages.

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