Belo Corp., one of the nation’s largest media companies, has agreed to settle a lawsuit by 61 employees at the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper who claimed they weren’t paid overtime because they were misclassified as exempt.
Details of the settlement, reached over two mediation sessions between attorneys in October, were not released. Final payments were made to the workers last week.
The group of former and current district supervisors in charge of delivering the Press-Enterprise accused the Dallas-based company of designating them as exempt administrative employees.
The workers distributed the newspaper and were not administrators, said plaintiffs’ attorney David Huch. They oversaw independent contractors, not any employees, as their job titles suggested, he said.
Under California law, employees who are misclassified are entitled to up to four years of overtime compensation at time-and-a-half and double-time rates.
“These workers worked many hours each and every day,” Huch said. “Some did not receive a day off for three months in a row because, when the independent contractors the route drivers didn’t show up, some of these people would have to go out and throw the route.”
California attorney Charles Barker, who represented Belo in the lawsuit, was out of the office Friday and not available for comment.
Under terms of the settlement, there is no admission of wrongdoing by Belo, said the company’s general counsel, Russ Coleman.
“We settled to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation,” Coleman said.
Before the class-action suit was scheduled to go to trial, Belo reclassified some employees and implemented a better timekeeping system.
Belo Corp. has about 7,400 employees and generates more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues. Among its holdings are The Dallas Morning News and 19 television stations.