Writers, editors, photographers—journalists, collectively—have filed a class action lawsuit against major multimedia corporation, Thomson Reuters. The suit was filed in a California court, and it asserts the company has violated several labor laws of the state. The complaint details a “deliberate scheme” by the information conglomerate to misclassify their journalists as independent contractors in order to avoid providing them the fundamental protections that are due to employees under California law.
The plaintiff, Philip Furley, filed the suit on behalf of himself and others similarly situated. Furley was hired as a journalist by Thomson Reuters and has collected and written news information for the company for ten years. Thomson Reuters employs journalists from all over the country. Journalism is an integral part of the operation of Thomson Reuters, which calls itself, “the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.” Furley asserts that he was regularly assigned work by his superiors at Thomson Reuters. It was work that he submitted to them for review and approval, to eventually be distributed to consumers of the company. Thomson Reuters exercised close control over Furley’s, and other journalists’, work, setting hours and schedules, requiring their presence and availability at office locations, and providing them with equipment and specific instructions.
The supervision and close management of Thomson Reuters over the journalists included requiring company-specific language and formatting, requiring attendance at company conference calls presided over by company managers, and even requiring journalists to identify themselves as Thomson Reuters’ employees with badges, ID cards, and email addresses. The journalists were—and still are—subject to discipline and termination if they fail to follow the practices dictated by the company’s management.
The class action lawsuit contends that the Thomson Reuters journalists were not engaged in a separate business or profession, as independent contractors would be, but were sole employees of the company and are entitled to employee benefits. The misclassification, the suit alleges, was a deliberate attempt by Thomson Reuters to maximize company profits and gain an unfair business advantage over competitors at the expense of its journalists.
Under California law, the suit asserts the Thomson Reuters journalists are due earned and accrued employee benefits, such as the right to minimum and overtime wages, mandated meal breaks, rest breaks, accurate itemized wage statements, the right to prompt payment of full wages within the time limit designated by California law, workers compensation protection, health insurance, paid holidays, and pension, among others.
We will update this case in early 2016.