Vice Media has agreed to pay a total of $1.875 million to some 675 former staffers to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the company consistently paid women less than men.
The settlement of the lawsuit was submitted for approval in the Superior Court of Los Angeles on March 25. News of the settlement was first reported by THR.
The lawsuit was filed in February 2018 on behalf of Elizabeth Rose, a former Vice project manager who said she discovered that women at the company were routinely paid far less than men for doing the same work. The suit alleged Vice violated U.S. as well as California and New York pay-equality laws.
Last year, the company hired Nancy Dubuc, former CEO of A+E Networks, as CEO in the wake of a sexual-harassment scandal at the company that resulted in the exit or firing of several execs. With Dubuc’s hiring, co-founder Shane Smith shifted into a new role as executive chairman.
In a statement about the lawsuit settlement, a Vice spokeswoman said, “Vice’s new management team is committed to maintaining a workplace where all employees are compensated equitably. This is why we provided our employees with the results of the company’s pay equity analysis, and have also settled the Rose case whereby we resolve any claimed historical disparities. We are dedicated to the equitable treatment of all people and we look forward to the Court’s approval of the settlement so that we can continue to fulfill this mission.”
After Rose filed the lawsuit, according to her attorneys, more than 60 individuals came forward to discuss their experiences working for Vice and share documentation like pay stubs. That resulted in four additional ex-Vice staffers joining the suit as named plaintiffs: Alyson Comingore, Alice Speri, Averie Timm and Zoe Miller.
The total settlement class comprises 675 individuals, according to court documents. Vice agreed to pay a maximum of $1.875 million across all members of the class-action suit. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs, from the law firm Alexander Krakow + Glick, have requested $647,000 of the settlement. The five named plaintiffs, including Rose, will receive an “enhanced payment” of no more than $15,000 each. That would leave an average of around $1,720 for each additional class member in the suit.
The suit went into arbitration last year, and Vice and the plaintiffs reached a preliminary settlement on Nov. 13, 2018, according to court documents.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers in the pay-disparity lawsuit cited an expert who estimated that Vice underpaid female employees between $7 million and $9.74 million, when controlling for “job family/level,” tenure, and work location. But when factoring in employee ages, the “potential disparities” dropped to well below $1 million, according to the settlement.
Vice, as part of its response to the sexual-harassment scandal, told employees a year ago it had set a goal of achieving pay parity by the end of 2018 and that it was committed to attaining a 50-50 ratio of male and female employees “at every level across the organization” by 2020.
According to Rose’s original lawsuit, she had hired a male subordinate who was paid $25,000 more than she was. The man was later promoted and became her supervisor. A top Vice executive told Rose that the male employee was a “good personality fit” for male clients at Live Nation, with whom he would have to interact, according to the suit.
Rose also cited an internal memo that listed salaries for 35 employees, according to the suit. She said she also spoke with female colleagues and learned that the women were generally paid less than the men. One woman was paid $50,000, while her male counterparts made $65,000. When that woman was promoted to a managing editor job, she was paid $15,000 less than the previous managing editor, the suit alleged.
The suit also claimed the company hired two editors in Brooklyn (a man) and Los Angeles (a woman) at the same time — with the male employee in Brooklyn receiving a higher salary. When an employee raised objections, the suit stated, Michael Prommer, a Vice manager, pushed back, saying of the woman, “this is how much we can offer her” and “that’s what the budget was.”
Vice took other steps in the wake of the sexual-harassment scandal, revealed in a New York Times exposé in December 2017. That included forming an advisory board with members including Gloria Steinem to advise Vice’s management and employees on workplace-conduct and diversity issues; eliminating the “nontraditional workplace agreement” that staffers were previously required to sign; and mandating sexual-harassment training for all full-time employees and freelancers.