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Newspaper staff wins labor suit

Jury awards $2.5 million to Chinese Daily News workers who said they were denied overtime.

January 13, 2007|Molly Selvin | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles federal jury returned a $2.5-million judgment against a Chinese-language newspaper in Monterey Park for violating state and federal labor laws by failing to pay overtime or allow meal and rest breaks to its reporters, advertising salespeople and hourly employees.

The award is part of a wave of litigation that has produced multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts in recent years for workers in a wide range of businesses who have accused their employers of giving them professional or managerial-like job titles to avoid paying overtime.

The class-action suit against Chinese Daily News, the largest Chinese-language newspaper in North America with a daily circulation of 30,000, included 200 current and former employees, plaintiffs' lawyer Randy Renick said.

Three former reporters who initiated the suit in 2004 complained that they routinely worked 10- to 12-hour days, often six days a week. The long work hours were a function of requirements that each reporter write two to five articles daily, Renick said.

Other employees who joined the suit included delivery drivers, printers, copy editors and clerical employees -- many of them hourly workers.

Calls to a lawyer for Chinese Daily News were not returned.

Former reporter Lynne Wang, 53, said she felt "happy and sad" after Wednesday's verdict.

"Finally this system worked," she said. "But why is justice so hard to get? We had to sacrifice so much." Wang said she and another reporter were terminated after they asked for overtime.

Renick said the verdict would "probably not apply" to reporters and editors at other newspapers. Much of the copy produced by Chinese Daily News staffers consisted of death notices, event listings and reviews, he said, reporting "of a different nature" from that done at major metropolitan dailies.

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molly.selvin@latimes.com

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