Vice Media Agrees to $1.87 Million Settlement for Paying Female Staffers Less Than Men

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

Vice has agreed to a $1.875 million deal to resolve a class action lawsuit brought by some of the media company's female workforce. The proposed settlement was quietly submitted for approval to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Monday. By the looks of the court papers, Vice was likely saved from paying millions more because the company tends to employ younger women.

Elizabeth Rose was one of the named plaintiffs leading the charge that Vice violated New York and California equal pay laws. According to the complaint, she was employed as a channel and project manager between April 2014 and February 2016. After the filing, other women came forward and joined the suit, including former managing editor Alyson Comingore, former assistant editor Zoe Miller and former copywriter Averie Timm.

The suit alleges that Vice failed to pay men and women equally for similar work because Vice relied on prior salaries. The pay gap is said to be perpetuated as female employees moved within the organization. For instance, the complaint details how Rose hired a male project manager in 2015 for a joint project and despite the fact that the two were the same age and had similar work experience, Rose earned less than that man, who subsequently rose through the ranks of the company.

Vice denies there was ever a centralized practice of using prior salary history to determine pay rate, but after mediation in the case, the company has decided to settle claims with a class of female employees estimated to be about 675 individuals. Subtracting the $650,000 earmarked for lawyers as well as the $15,000 service fees for each of the named plaintiffs in the case, that leaves $1.075 million to Vice's female employees in New York and California during the relevant time period. The average payout will be about $1,600 (minus taxes), though payouts will depend on factors including service time and job classifications.

The court papers say that more than 60 witnesses were interviewed for this litigation, and Vice agreed to provide anonymized data about salaries of employees dating back to 2012. The plaintiffs then hired a statistician to determine if there were any statistically significant pay disparities between men and women.

"According to Plaintiff's expert, when controlling for job family/level, tenure, and work location, the amount of underpaid wages to female employees appeared to range between $7,000,000 and $9,740,000," states the motion to approve the settlement.

And but...

"When the age of the employee is factored in to account for differences in years of experience in the labor market, however, the potential disparities plummeted to well-below one-million dollars."

As such, the plaintiffs put aside any issue over how Vice apparently loves younger female staffers, to frame the settlement as being between 19 percent to over 200 percent of the total wages believed to be owed.

"This is a fair and reasonable result given the legal and factual hurdles," writes attorney Michael Morrison at Alexander Krakow, who in his brief nodded to Vice's contention that compensation decisions were made not by a centralized group of decision-makers but rather managers within departments exercising independent discretion during a time of rapid expansion.

After the lawsuit came amid news reports about Vice's culture favoring men, Nancy Dubuc took the reins of the company from Shane Smith with a plan to fix the media pioneer. Don't expect her to publicly comment about the settlement, however. The agreement includes the stipulation that neither side is to contact the press about the resolution or post any information about it online, and if contacted to say only that the matter has been settled.

Nevertheless, a Vice spokesperson provided the following comment: "Vice’s new management team is committed to maintaining a workplace where all employees are compensated equitably. This is why we provided our employees with the results of the company’s pay equity analysis, and have also settled the Rose case whereby we resolve any claimed historical disparities. We are dedicated to the equitable treatment of all people and we look forward to the Court’s approval of the settlement so that we can continue to fulfill this mission.”