Overtime Case at L.A. Ethnic Newspaper Called Precedent for Smaller Papers Everywhere

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By: E&P Staff

Reporters at the Chinese Daily News are not exempt from overtime pay, a federal appeals court declared as it ruled the Los Angeles newspaper must pay journalists who brought the lawsuit about $5.2 million.

The decision, reported by the Newspaper Guild’s newsletter The Guild Reporter, quotes the union’s general counsel, Barbara Camens, as calling the decision by the three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals, “a great precedent for us.” The ruling means most small- and mid-sized newspapers must pay reporters overtime pay, she added.

In its decision, the court said the work product of the Chinese Daily News journalists did not meet the overtime exemption standard of creativity or originality.

 “CDN articles may be characterized as ‘standard recounts of public information [created] by gathering facts on routine community events,’ “ the court decision said, according to the Guild Reporter.

The case, Wang vs. Chinese Daily News, arose from a failed union drive by the Guild. Union activists in the newsroom filed the lawsuit claiming journalists were forced to work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours a week without overtime or work breaks.

In the first representation vote, held in 2001, the Guild won a narrow victory that was challenged by management and ultimately overturned by the National Labor Relations Board four years later.  “In September 2005, after having endured years of management intimidation, and the firing of union activists, employees voted 52-92 against union representation,” the Guild Reporter account said.

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