WGAW age suit sans legal fees

'We have not collected a penny ... and we do not plan to,' attorney sez

A law firm probing age-discrimination allegations by Writers Guild of America West members has promised it will represent members without cost, following complaints about the firm’s heavy-handed tactics.

The pledge came after the WGAW’s board expressed “strong dissatisfaction” about reps for Sprenger & Lang pressuring them for a $1,000 non-refundable retainer even if it did not file a class-action suit.

“We have not collected a penny from anyone at the WGA and we do not plan to,” said attorney Maia Caplan of Sprenger & Lang, which notified members over 40 of the investigation earlier this year (Daily Variety, Feb. 2). “We dropped the idea very quickly after people complained.”

The board of the WGAW, in a June 7 notice to members who had been solicited, said several members had cited “overzealous demands” by the D.C.-based firm for a signed agreement for representation and the retainer. “The guild’s board believes that Sprenger & Lang’s conduct is a breach of their commitment to us and to members to conduct their investigation ‘without cost’ and to seek only a contingent fee arrangement,” the union told its members.

Caplan said her firm, which specializes in employment discrimination suits, has not yet determined if it will file a class-action suit. The probe followed a 1998 report showing sharply decreased opportunities for scribes over 40 and asked WGAW members about discrimination in hiring at networks, studios and production companies as well as discrimination in obtaining representation by agencies.

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