More than three years after The Hollywood Reporter was accused of playing fast and loose with how it classified contributors to get out of paying benefits and more, a judge has approved a class-action settlement that will see the red-faced Prometheus Global Media publication paying out $900,000.
The preliminary approval by Judge Ann Jones after a hearing Wednesday at LA Superior Court downtown means that about 35 THR contributors who were designated as independent contractors instead of employees will get a check for around $14,840. Approximately $380,000 of the overall agreement between the plaintiffs and THR will go to lawyers and other fees related to the case.
With allegations of “illegal common polices and practices” by THR, the case was certified as a class action back in September 2015. Perhaps fearing a jury trial and maybe wanting to get the matter off its books before any possible sale, THR entered mediation with the plaintiffs not longer afterward.
A final approval on the settlement that the two sides reached in January is expected in the next couple of months – likely. Not that this is entirely over for THR and Prometheus. Of the 45 punitive class members in the matter, 10 decided not to be included in the action after the 2015 certification so that they can make claims of their own at some point.
The road to this resolution so far started on September 27, 2013, when longtime THR contributor David Simpson went to court and claimed that freelancers at THR are “indistinguishable from employees in all material respects.” Having joined the publication in October 2008 and worked there until February 2013, Simpson added, “The sole purpose of misclassifying freelancers as independent contractors is to deny them benefits and protections afforded to employees.” Not that anyone outside the company would make the distinction as Simpson was cited as “THR Staff” and an assistant editor on the mag’s website in 2013, despite actually being a freelancer in his duties as an online video producer and digital manager.
THR and Prometheus are represented by Nicky Jatana, Benjamin Tulis and Cynthia Emery from the L.A. offices of Jackson Lewis LLP. Matthew B. Hayes and Kye D. Pawlenko of Pasadena’s Hayes Pawlenko LLP represented the THR contributors plaintiffs.