A Los Angeles Superior Court jury on Wednesday ruled that the newspaper committed an act of discrimination when the newspaper fired a sports columnist in March 2013.
T. J. Simers, 65, sued the newspaper shortly after his dismissal, alleging that the newspaper overly criticized his work and reduced his job roles and responsibilities following a health impairment several years ago.
The discrimination peaked in March 2013 when Simers said he was forced out of his $234,000-a-year job at the metropolitan daily. Before that, Simers said Times editors overly criticized his work and reduced his job role to that of a blogger, cutting his five-day-a-week column to a mere three days in the process.
During the six week trial, the Times and its parent company Tribune Publishing disputed this, saying Simers had used his role as a columnist with the paper to bolster personal projects on the side, something the newspaper said was a violation of its ethical standards.
But a jury disagreed with the paper, finding in favor of Simers after two days of deliberations and ordering the Times to pay $7.1 million for their discriminatory acts. The foreman of the jury, Orie McLemore, told a newspaper reporter covering the trial that the jury felt that the company “didn’t deal with Mr. Simers in a proper manner.”
“How can you take someone who’s been doing that well, and then all of a sudden he’s not up to par?” McLemore questioned. “I have got to feel there’s something there.”
Jurors awarded Simers $330,000 for lost wages, $1.8 million for economic damages and a further $5 million for emotional suffering, the Times reported in a story on its own lawsuit.
A Times company spokesperson said the paper plans to appeal the verdict.
Simers, now a columnist at the Orange County Register, worked at the Times when it was owned by the Tribune Company. The newspaper is now a part of Tribune Publishing, the print company that separated from Tribune’s broadcast properties in 2014.