Superior court judge John S. Meyer has ruled against the Union-Tribune in a class-action suit brought in early 2009 by the newspaper's carriers.
The carriers claimed they were misclassified as independent contractors when they actually should have been deemed employees, and therefore entitled to expense reimbursements. The court ruled that 1235 carriers who delivered papers between 2005 and 2007 were in fact employees of the Union-Tribune.
Judge Meyer conceded that "there was evidence presented at trial that indicated the carriers were independent contractors." The contracts stated that the carriers agreed they were independent contractors. However, Meyer found in many instances that contract provisions were not done in arm's length negotiations but were made unilaterally by the U-T.
"During the class period, the contract was revised on 11 separate occasions," said Meyer. "All of these revisions were made unilaterally by [the U-T] and for [the U-T's] benefit." The company also penalized carriers by reducing compensation if there were subscriber complaints. The company would call carriers to wake them if they did not arrive on time.
The court awarded $4.95 million to the members of the class as compensation for unreimbursed expenses. The law firm, Orange County's Callahan & Blaine, got $6.16 million for attorneys' fees and $1.25 million of that will be paid out of the award to the class.