Vice Media Accused of Systemic Pay Disparity in New Lawsuit

VICE Offices - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Taji Ameen/VICE

Vice Media is facing a class action lawsuit alleging systemic gender discrimination, according to an unstamped complaint posted Tuesday on the plaintiff firm's website.

The complaint begins with a statement from founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi that was reportedly sent to staff in December. It says, in part, "We have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive."

Emily Rose worked on Vice's collaboration with Live Nation, and as part of her job had access to an internal memo that listed the salaries of about three dozen employees. She claims it showed female employees made "far less" than male employees. 

Rose says a male subordinate, whom she hired, made $25,000 more than her annually. She also says he rose quickly within the company and eventually became her supervisor because he was a "good personality fit" for the male clients at Live Nation. It's unclear whether the salary differential existed before his promotion.

“Our investigation has uncovered significant evidence that Vice made a conscious decision to pay more money to its male employees than its female employees who worked in similar positions performing the same or substantially similar work," Rose's attorney Michael Morrison said Tuesday in a statement. "This result is not surprising given the male dominated leadership structure at Vice and the public allegations of rampant gender discrimination and harassment as reported by The New York Times last year.”

The proposed classes include all female employees who currently work for Vice or had worked there in the years leading up to the lawsuit.

Rose is asking the court for a declaration that Vice has engaged in systemic gender discrimination by paying women less than men for substantially similar work, an injunction barring such practices and damages. 

Speculation about the pay at Vice Media has been the subject of news stories since at least 2014, when Gawker's Hamilton Nolan wrote a story that said, "A more specific complaint: the salaries at Vice are low. Very low. Even as Shane Smith watches his millions increase, his employees are pissed that they can hardly afford rent in Brooklyn." 

Vice sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement Tuesday in response to the complaint: "We have just been made aware of the complaint and are reviewing it. As a company, we have made a significant commitment to a respectful, inclusive and equal workplace. That commitment includes a pay parity audit started last year, a goal of 50/50 female/male representation at every level by 2020, and the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board."

Feb. 13, 1:20 p.m. Updated with a statement from Vice.