One of the country's biggest Chinese-language newspapers has agreed to pay $7.8 million to past and current employees to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit involving allegations of multiple labor violations.
The suit against Chinese Daily News, known in the Chinese community as World Journal, stretches back to 2004, when three employees sued over alleged abuses, including failure to pay overtime and not giving meal and rest breaks. The paper is basedin Monterey Park.
The three workers — including a reporter and sales agent — said they were often forced to work 12-hour shifts six days a week without the required rest break. They were not paid overtime, nor were they allowed to report the actual number of hours they worked.
The suit was certified as a class action, eventually ballooning to more than 200 newspaper workers, including reporters, salespeople and other hourly employees from the Monterey Park and San Francisco offices.
In 2008, a U.S. district judge in Los Angeles ordered the paper to pay those workers more than $3.5 million in damages and penalties in addition to more than $1.5 million interest. That followed a 2007 jury verdict in favor of the workers.
But the case got locked in appeals courts for years, said Randy Renick, a plaintiff's lawyer.
"Chinese Daily News was going to fight this until the end of time," he said. "They appealed and appealed again."
Finally, after 12 years of litigation, Chinese Daily News decided to settle "to avoid protracted litigation," said Yi-Chin Ho, an attorney for the paper.
Chinese Daily News wanted to "focus on its core business of producing the most widely circulated Chinese-language paper in the U.S.," she said. "It believes all wage and hour policies are fully compliant with California and federal law."
One of the original plaintiffs, Lynne Wang, said the settlement was a small measure of justice after what she described as years of labor and wage abuses. Wang said managers and editors have long had friction with the paper's rank-and-file staff. In 2001, employees had voted to unionize.
After the vote, "they added to the workload," she said. "After you are done for the week, you had to come to the office at 10 or 11 p.m. to have a late-night meeting until midnight."
Wang worked at the newspaper for 18 years as a reporter; she said she was terminated for refusing to switch to a position as a translator. She now works as a freelance writer and radio broadcaster.
As part of the settlement, about $100,000 will be donated to fund clinics to help Asian American workers at UCLA, Loyola Law School and USC Gould School of Law, Renick said.
Wang said she wants other Asian immigrant workers to have access to aid in the same way that she and her former co-workers did when they pursued their own lawsuit.
"It's really difficult for Chinese immigrant workers to sue a company," she said. "So we want to help them."