Ex-LAT Magazine publisher sues over redlining of readers *

Steven Gellman, who became publisher of the Los Angeles Times magazine in 2009, sued the Times and Tribune over his firing and accuses them of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of business and professions codes. He's looking for $3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. Gellman's suit contends he was fired and defamed for objecting to the LAT's decision to save money by "stopping distribution of its Sunday magazine to low-income and minority neighborhoods, while charging them the same price as 'the white affluent subscribers.'" From Courthouse News Service, citing the L.A. Superior Court suit:

"Shortly after plaintiff began working at the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he began receiving complaints from customers about defendants' discriminatory distribution of the LA Times Magazine," according to the complaint. "Defendants made the decision to eliminate distribution of the magazine in the Sunday paper to lower-income, and demographically minority neighborhoods, such as Highland Park and Compton. Although the minority subscribers in these ZIP codes were not receiving the Los Angeles Times magazine, they were still paying the same subscription price as the white affluent subscribers. Further, defendants continued to distribute the Los Angeles Times magazine in the Sunday paper in the white affluent neighborhoods."

Gellman says he "brought these complaints directly to his direct manager, John T. O'Loughlin," who is not named as a defendant. He says O'Loughlin "dismissed the complaints, telling him that they had a 'story' for this and questioning the importance of the complaints."

Gellman claims he attended a strategy meeting where he "witnessed defendants sexually harass an employee." He says he spoke to the defendants about reporting them to the Human Resources department, and that "Defendants were concerned that plaintiff was making waves by speaking out against the discriminatory distribution of the magazine and sexual harassment, and therefore prohibited plaintiff from contacting Human Resources."

Immediately after this, Gellman says, "things changed for plaintiff." He says the defendants retaliated against him by changing his "reporting structure," and placing him directly under the manager he wanted to report for sexual harassment, who "was openly hostile to plaintiff."

The story doesn't carry the Times' response.

* Update: Tribune sent over a response:

After reviewing the lawsuit just filed by Mr. Gellman, we believe the claims contained in it are without merit. As this is a matter of ongoing litigation, we will defer further comment.

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