A recent New York Times article, that our California Labor and Employment Attorneys have been following, discussed last month's $70 million settlement of a class-action age discrimination case brought by 165 television writers--who claim to have been discriminated against consistently by studios, agents, and producers because of their age.
The defendants in the lawsuit include the major broadcast television networks and the corresponding production studios affiliated with the networks, as well as several talent agencies--all of which the writers claim refused to represent their work, or their ability to be hired as writers because of their age. The $70 million settlement will reportedly be mostly paid by insurance carries, which reveals that neither the agency, studio, network or production company will be responsible for more than $1 million--less than it costs to produce one single episode of half-hour network television.
The article states that although $70 million sounds like a sizable settlement amount, roughly 40% of the age-discrimination settlement will go to lawyers' fees, as well as $2.5 million to create the Fund for the Future, a grant and loan fund writers. This leaves $43 million for the writing plaintiffs, of which nearly $245,000 will go to each of the named plaintiffs--although few will receive this much, as settlement payouts will depend on how many people apply for and are qualified to receive class action status.
Martin L. Levine, professor of Law and gerontology at UCLA claimed that $70 million is such a big number that it may attract a lot of attention for writers, as the threat of having to pay money might change the employment behavior. David R. Ginsburg, the executive director of the entertainment and media law program at UCLA's School of Law, counters that this settlement should be viewed through a narrow lens, as the defendants settled the case merely as a business matter, and never admitted any discriminatory acts.
According to research conducted for the Writers Guild of America, West, since the suit was filed ten years ago, the percentage of television writers under the age of 31 who are employed has dropped from 9.8 percent in 1999, to 6.2 percent of the total in 2007. Television writers over the age of 50 grew nearly 10 percent from 19.3 percent in 1999 to 21.5 percent in 2007. This change may have been caused by the anti-discrimination lawsuit, but may also reflect changing trends in television viewing patterns, content programming, and marketing to older demographics.
At Howard Law, PC, our Labor and Employment Lawyers are knowledgeable about age discrimination in the workplace in Orange County and throughout Southern California. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against because of your age, contact us today for a free consultation.
After 10 Years, Age-Bias Suit Ends in Changed Hollywood, The New York Times, January 27, 2010
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