LOS ANGELES – The Chinese Daily News will pay $7.8 million to settle a decade-old lawsuit that claimed it cheated more than 200 workers out of overtime pay, it was announced Friday.
The 2004 lawsuit said that the nation's largest-circulating Chinese-language paper forced reporters, sales and production staff and even delivery drivers to work long hours and six-day weeks without overtime pay, meals or rest breaks. The lawsuit said the paper also denied workers proper vacation pay.
The Chinese Daily News has a readership of about 120,000 and is based in Monterey Park, an eastern Los Angeles suburb with a large Asian-American population that swelled in the 1980s with an influx of immigrants from Taiwan. The paper is one of several that serve a large and diverse Asian population throughout the San Gabriel Valley that also includes immigrants from China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The class-action federal lawsuit was closely followed by Chinese living at home and abroad. It made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent it back to an appeals court in 2011. Both sides reached a settlement last year. But it was only approved last month by a judge, who must still approve the distribution of the money.
The $7.8 million includes interest and penalties for violations of labor law.
Checks are expected to start going out next week, said Randy Renick, an attorney for the workers. The employees will receive anywhere from about $10,000 to $100,000 depending on their jobs, how long they were employed by the newspaper and how much overtime they chalked up, Renick said.
The average amount is about $19,000, he said.
"My feeling is pretty mixed. It came so late. This lawsuit last for more than 12 years," said Lynn Wang, who worked for the paper for 18 years.
She was fired in 2005 after giving a deposition for the lawsuit. "They terminated me as an example to other workers, make everybody scared," she said.
Wang said she and other reporters often worked 13 to 17 hours at a stretch. "Taiwan has an election, all the reporters have to stay up all night because of the time difference, and no overtime," she said.
After a long day, she also might be called in again.
"They say you're on duty all the time. They can call you to do a story anytime. If I finish my work, if there's a shooting or a fire somewhere, they call me," Wang said.
Employees also had to attend late-night staff meetings that lasted until 1 a.m., she said.
Many workers were recent immigrants who didn't know their employment rights, Wang said.
Under the settlement, about $100,000 in unclaimed money and employee donations will be contributed to local law schools to hold clinics on workers' rights, Renick said.
The newspaper didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement. As of now, the paper's wage and hour policies "are fully compliant with California and federal law," said Yi-Chin Ho, an attorney who represented the paper.
"CDN is a very well-respected, established and responsible, dedicated community leader, and it is committed to continuing to advocate, promote and preserve the interests and rights of Asian Americans," Ho said.
The newspaper is owned by United Daily News Group of Taiwan, which publishes more than a dozen papers around the world.