UPDATE: ICM’s Settlement paperwork will be filed Tuesday.
EXCLUSIVE: Slowly but surely, a group of over age-40 TV writers alleging age discrimination by Hollywood networks, studios, production companies and talent agencies have been winning their lawsuits. Their latest victory took place last Thursday when the California Court Of Appeals issued a ruling on discovery in their favor. As a result, one of the defendants has now decided to become the first to settle with the writers. I’m told it’s ICM, and I understand that the other big Hollywood talent agencies are none too happy about the tenpercentery breaking ranks and “going rogue”, in the words of one rival agency owner. (Won’t that be a fun session at the next meeting of the Association of Talent Agents?) Insiders inform me that ICM’s settlement amount is $4.5 million and will be covered by the agency’s insurance. The deal is done, and all that’s left to finish is the paperwork, I hear. Now that ICM has taken this seriously, look for the other agencies — at least those with insurance — to get in line to settle, too.
About two dozen class action lawsuits were originally filed 8 years ago in federal court in Los Angeles by 150+ older writers claiming pervasive age discrimination since the early 1980s. The allegations included violations of the federal Age Discrimination In Employment Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Targeted were the then six television networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox; studios including Walt Disney Co, Fox Entertainment, Universal and Paramount; 12 production companies; and 11 talent agencies, including William Morris, CAA, ICM and Endeavor. Among those taking up the writers’ cause has been the AARP which joined the class action specialist Sprenger + Lang law firm. Since 2000, the cases have wound their way through California state and federal lower courts and appeals courts with some setbacks but also much success for the writers. Ultimately, the outcome of these cases could affect thousands of unemployed or underemployed older writers and help change the way TV deals are done in Hollywood and elsewhere.