By: E&P Staff
The Chinese Daily News has been slapped with a $5.2 million fine by a federal court in Los Angeles for operating a journalistic sweatshop.
Reporters testified in the case that they were forced to work six days a week at 12-hour shifts that could extend to 17 hours at times with no breaks for meals. Supervisors altered time cards to make it appear that no overtime was worked. Reporters were also given quotas of stories to come up with, according to the lawsuit.
More than 200 reporters, ad salespeople, delivery drivers, secretaries, and production workers ultimately joined the class-action lawsuit that was first filed in 2004. The group contended they were owed overtime pay dating back to 2000. All the employees work or worked out of the Chinese Daily News offices in Monterey Park, Calif., near Los Angeles. The nationally circulated newspaper also has a major office in New York City.
In a ruling issued late last Thursday by U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in Los Angeles, the Chinese Daily News was ordered to pay the employees more than $3.5 million in damages and penalties, plus $1.5 million in interest. The ruling was first reported in The Los Angeles Times by Tiffany Hsu, and in The New York Times by Rebecca Cathcart.
A lawyer for the Chinese Daily News told the Los Angeles Times the paper intended to appeal, and was confident the verdict would be reversed.
The newspaper fired workers who dared to complain about the workload or overtime situation, the lawsuit contended. Lynne Wang, a former reporter who told the New York Times she was fired in 2005, said workers felt unable to complain because of the non-stop work, a culture of intimidation, and their ignorance of U.S. labor law.
“We are all new immigrants to this country, so we didn’t know the law,” Wang, a journalist who came to the United States from Taiwan, told the Times.
The Times account summarized her description of work at the paper in this way:
“Reporters were required to produce five stories a day, Ms. Wang said, which meant they had to race between news conferences and interviews for hours without a break. Production workers and packers did the same indoors, spending hours before presses and stackers. Quotas for advertising salespeople were unreasonably high, she said, and drivers were forced to navigate rush-hour traffic with long lists of delivery addresses strewn across the sprawling city.”
* A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Randall Renick served as an attorney for the Daily News. He represented the plaintiffs. A previous version also misidentified the Los Angeles Times staff writer who reported the verdict as Mariel Garza, who works for the Los Angeles Daily News. E&P regrets the errors.