Writers get data for ageism lawsuit


A California appelate court ruling has given a group of TV writers vital new ammunition in their 8-year-old age-discrimination lawsuit against various studios, networks, agencies and production companies.

In a 30-plus-page decision, the three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in favor of allowing the writers access to information that includes demographic data (name, date of birth, gender, race and ZIP code) and work history (employer, production, credits, job title, period of employment, part-time or full-time status, awards, talent agency rep and time with an agency).

Armed with the information, the plaintiffs — veteran TV writers who claimed in 2000 that they were not hired for various shows because of their age — could put together statistics that might bolster their allegations, said one of their lead attorneys, Steven Sprenger of the Washington class-action law firm Sprenger & Lang.

"It's a significant ruling for class-action cases," he said. "The statistics are critical to the claims."

At least one of the defendants, ICM, might be entering into a settlement as a result of the appeals court decision, according to a source close to the case. ICM declined comment.

The defendants argued that access to the information would violate writers' privacy. The plaintiffs had requested information on about 47,000 writers; of those, 7,700 objected to their private information being turned over. (partialdiff)