A San Francisco writer is leading a class action lawsuit against media giant Thomson Reuters, claiming the company worked them to the bone without paying them overtime or giving them proper meal breaks.
Jason Beahm, a local attorney and journalist, started working as a writer FindLaw, an online legal publication owned by Reuters, at its Sunnyvale offices in March 2010, where he says he and his fellow bloggers regularly worked in excess of eight hours a day without compensation.
The writers were also encouraged to skip lunch breaks and instead churn out copy, said Bill Corman, the attorney representing Beahm.
The lawsuit covers roughly 50 writers who worked there or are currently employed at FindLaw. Corman said that Beahm made $23 an hour as a full-time staff blogger for the site. The writers were required to write eight blog posts a day.
Most writers there worked on average 60 hours a week, but they were not paid for the overtime, Corman told SF Weekly.
"FindLaw knew that these writers were working in excess of 40 hours a week, but the message was ,'You work as many hours as you need to to get the job done,'" Corman says.
Corman says that this is a common practice in the news reporting business. Two years ago, the Chinese Daily News lost a court battle, forcing it to pay its employees millions of dollars in overtime.
Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at Poynter, a nonprofit journalism school, said this has been problematic in the news business for the last four decades. A big part of it has to do with the weakening of writers' unions, he said.
"It's because of the nature of the work -- it's not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job," Edmonds tells SF Weekly. "And many just want to stay on the good side of the person who will be doing the layoffs."