LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge awarded $5.19 million to past employees of The Chinese Daily News, Los Angeles’ largest Chinese language newspaper, for the paper’s refusal to pay overtime, and other labor violations. Plaintiffs’ attorney Randy Renick said the verdict was made possible because the mostly immigrant employees “finally had the courage to speak up.”
Former Daily News reporter Lynne Wang said the company expected its reporters to work unpaid overtime that sometimes amounted to 18-hour shifts.
“They wouldn’t hire enough reporters,” Wang said.
As a result, Wang said, she covered virtually all aspects of the L.A. political beat, including the mayor’s office, the City Council, the Fire and Police Departments, administration of federal benefits such as Medicare, as well as spot news in Chinatown.
Wang said that she and other employees tried to reason with the company before filing a class-action lawsuit in 2004, but the company responded with a letter that threatened employees with termination. “They left us no choice,” Wang said.
In addition to unpaid overtime, the judgment award reimbursed reporters, salespeople, and printing and delivery staff for missed meals and rest breaks, inaccurate wage statements, and a vacation buyback policy that the company never carried out.
Judge Consuelo Marshall declined to issue an injunction against the company’s illegal management practices, finding that the company had “abandoned” those policies. But Wang says she has heard from current employees that the situation has not improved.
Wang said, however, that several reporters from another Los Angeles area Chinese newspaper called to thank her, saying that their paper revised its employment policies immediately after the verdict against the Chinese Daily. Wang urged workers who are mistreated to make a stand. “In this country, the law is there to help you,” she said. “If you’re too scared of the law to fight, who will help you?”