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Variety, Longtime Editor Are Sued by Gay Employee Who Was Fired

January 25, 2003|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

The longtime editor of the entertainment trade publication Variety was sued Friday by a former editor who alleges he was fired after complaining about being harassed because he is gay.

Ramin Zahed sued Variety, parent company Reed Elsevier and editor Peter Bart in Los Angeles County Superior Court for wrongful discharge. Also named was another Variety editor, Thomas Tapp.

According to the lawsuit, Zahed was Variety's special reports editor until he was fired Sept. 6. Zahed said he was told at the time that his performance was not an issue, the lawsuit says, but that his department was being restructured.

Zahed alleges that the firing came after he complained to the paper's human resources department about having to endure slurs about his sexual orientation. The lawsuit alleges Bart set the workplace tone by frequently making slurs against gays and women.

"Employee decisions at Variety are made because of economics, merit, job performance and business needs, and to suggest otherwise is simply unfair and untrue," according to a statement issued by Cahners, the Reed Elsevier unit that owns Variety. "The individual in question lost his position as a result of a restructuring. This was a decision based solely on the needs and direction of our business."

Bart was suspended in 2001 for 21 days without pay after Los Angeles magazine published a profile that said he frequently used racist, sexist and anti-gay language and engaged in various forms of unethical journalistic behavior. Bart was later reinstated. He issued a statement saying he was "very sorry" and was ordered to undergo diversity training.

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