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Last week, all 15 newspaper carriers for the North County Times' circulation in Solana Beach, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and Encinitas received 30-day termination notices.

The Escondido-based daily paper gave no reason for the layoffs. The carriers where told unofficially by warehouse personnel that the paper has hired an independent firm to contract for delivery services.

It is the first such notice for the paper's carriers, but they believe all North County and southern Riverside County delivery personnel will be let go shortly. The carriers believe the layoffs have something to do with a pending class-action lawsuit against the publisher, Lee Publications. The lawsuit claims that approximately 800 newspaper carriers were denied overtime, breaks, payment of tips, and other benefits of “employees,” in an attempt to save the money.

The North County Times’ position is that the carriers were clearly independent contractors (as stated in this November 18, 2010, article). A spokesperson for Lee Publications claimed in a published report that the company's potential liability, if it were to lose the lawsuit, could be as much as $18 million — a death sentence for the newspaper.

According to the North County Times, similar lawsuits have been filed recently against the Orange County Register and the Antelope Valley Press.

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