Lawsuit: LA Times Didn't Hire Writer 'Cause He's Old, Fired Him for Testifying in Another Suit

Earlier this month, Los Angeles Magazine published a much-buzzed-about hatchet job on Los Angeles Times editor-publisher (and Orange County resident) Davan Maharaj, with his haters claiming he's hurtling the paper into oblivion. I'll pen my thoughts on the piece sometime next week (let's just say for right now it ain't "Wrecking Ball"), but what's indisputable is that a civil war has been brewing at the Times for a while, and the climate over there is going to get worse before it gets better.

How worse? Yet another former Times writer, Steve Dilbeck, is pursuing legal action against the paper—even though his work is still appearing in the paper. Huh?

A lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges the 64-year-old Orange County resident—who blogged about the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2010 until earlier this year, and had a story on USC basketball appear just this week—was fired from his non-staffer job "because of his age, participation in protected activities, and good faith complaints." It contends that at the end of 2013, Dilbeck met with Times then-executive sports editor Michael James about getting hired full-time after a position opened. Instead, Dilbeck claims, James told him "The average age of the staff was 53, and we have to get younger"—and that he wanted a youngster but would take Dilbeck if there was a second hire. When Dilbeck nevertheless said he wanted to apply for the spot, James asked for clips, which Dilbeck found "preposterous because he had been working with James for years and knew that James was familiar with his work."

Dilbeck nevertheless went through with the application but didn't get the position. He asked to speak to James' superiors, and was directed to Times managing editor Marc Duvoisin, whom the lawsuit claims "appeared completely unaware of plaintiff or his work." That led Dilbeck to believe "that he had never been seriously considered for the position because of his age."

But wait, there's more! Dilbeck repeated the "ageist comments James made to him" at the 2015 trial of former Times star sports columnist TJ Simers, who successfully sued the paper for age discrimination only to see a judge vacate the verdict. Dilbeck's testimony, his lawsuit claims, led to the Times "retaliat[ing] against him by discriminating against him and taking adverse employment actions, including employment termination, failure to hire, and failure to promote." Even as this happened, the lawsuit claims, the Times' sports section continued its youth-hiring trend all the way to March of this year, when Times sports editor Angel Rodriguez laid off Dilbeck and other bloggers. One of the terminated, though, "an approximately 27-year-old woman who was a USC blogger" was soon hired as a full-timer.

Dilbeck is suing on 17 counts ranging from age discrimination to intentional infliction of emotional distress to violation of rest period law to unpaid overtime and gas reimbursement, and a hella bunch more. He's asking for at least $25,000; general, special, and exemplary damages; pre- and post-judgement interest "on all damages awarded"; "reasonable attorneys's fees" and the cost of the lawsuit.

In addition to Dilbeck and Simers' suits, former Times' reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner Jeff Gottlieb, has his own age discrimination and retaliation suit pending against the paper. All three Timers have been represented by Santa Monica lawyer Carney R. Shegerian—fascinating...


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