Star 'artificially structured' layoff; Guyett going to trial

Dateline: Thu 05 Jan 2012

Indianapolis attorney Kathleen DeLaney sent out a press release this morning -- it's an update on former Inidianapolis Star columnist Susan Guyett's age discrimination case against the Indianapolis Star.

The case will go to trial April 24 in U.S. District Court.

This is the start of justice being served. I hope Guyett gets a huge settlement, and that others who have been done wrong by Gannett take heart and get the message that fighting back can make a difference.

Here is DeLaney's press release:

 "The claim by former Indianapolis Star columnist Susan J. Guyett that her layoff from the newspaper in December 2008 resulted from age discrimination has been scheduled for trial by jury in United States District Court starting April 24. The Indianapolis Star is owned by Gannett Co., Inc.

"In December, Chief Judge Richard L. Young denied a motion by the Indianapolis Star to end the case. In his 17-page order (copy attached)1, Chief Judge Young said that the explanations by Star Editor and Vice President Dennis Ryerson for terminating Guyett while retaining younger staffers – and replacing her as columnist with a younger reporter – were contradictory and provided evidence supporting her claim sufficient to require a jury’s verdict on the age discrimination claim.

“'Plaintiff [Guyett] has cast doubt on the Star’s proffered reasons for the termination, and, accordingly her claim of discrimination is to be determined by a jury,' Chief Judge Young wrote in his order. Entry on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (“Entry”), p. 16. The claim cites violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

"Guyett’s attorney, Kathleen A. DeLaney of DeLaney & DeLaney LLC in Indianapolis, IN said that the evidence showed that the Star artificially structured its layoff criteria to get around the paper’s union contract seniority protections and to hide age discrimination. “Instead of following the seniority provision in a fair and appropriate manner, the Star attempted to manipulate the provision’s meaning after the fact to justify Ms. Guyett’s
termination,” she said. “The Star terminated Ms. Guyett under false pretenses and replaced her with a reporter twenty years younger.”

"Susan Guyett wrote the popular “Talk of Our Town” column in the Star, the successor to the “Cityscape” column that she proposed to the Star, from 1999 until December 2008.

"At the time of the Star layoffs in December 2008, Guyett was 59 years old and had received positive performance appraisals. In fact, Ryerson had described her as “uniquely qualified” to handle “a very unusual beat,” according to Chief Judge Young’s order.

"In his order, Chief Judge Young said, “Replacing Plaintiff with [a 20 years younger reporter] indicates that the news reporters were not indispensible, as Ryerson claimed, and casts doubt on the legitimacy of the Star’s stated reason for Plaintiff’s termination versus reporters in the hard news department with less seniority.” Entry, p. 15.

"Chief Judge Young also wrote that excluding certain other reporters from the reduction in force raised suspicions as well. “Ryerson’s continuous narrowing of departments into sub departments in order to spare less senior reporters from the RIF [reduction in force] is evidence of pretext,” he wrote. Entry, p. 16.

"The trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Indianapolis."


Dick Hertz [unverified] said:

We're rooting for you, Susan. Stick it to them good.

2012-01-05 07:45:19

hendy [Member] said:

Dollars gets you donuts that they settle just before the trial. But I hope she succeeds, through the trial, through the inevitable appeals, and gets what she deserves.

2012-01-05 08:18:07

whosear [Member] said:

I wonder if Gannett could make money but writing the primer on, "How Not to Run a Newspaper". Good luck on the suit.

2012-01-05 10:33:20

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I wonder if any media will report this? Clearly the Star won't.

2012-01-05 12:41:47

ruthholl [Member] said:

Tom, I think Kathleen sent it out widely. I sent it this morning to IBJ, NUVO, Amos Brown and a couple Guild officers after I got it. I'll bet IBJ and NUVO will cover it. I have not had a chance yet to look. Also sent to couple blogs -- Masson's blog and Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana. Both those guys are lawyers, so they may be interested.

2012-01-05 15:35:26

weltschmerzgirl [unverified] said:

I have a dream that Susan will win, and Sally Field will play her in the Oscar-nominated film, for which she will write the screenplay!

2012-01-05 18:13:26

Your Neighbor Diane [unverified] said:

I'm routing for you Susan! Maybe only people in "the know" are able to realize when it is imperative to stand up for their rights. Our entire society is imploding from similar issues. Keep Up!

2012-01-05 22:01:45

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

If she can afford to hold out, she should go to trial and not settle.

These facts are mind-numbing. I'm nearing that golden age myself, but thankfully, I generate all my own income.

Ms. Delaney is a smart cookie.

2012-01-05 22:48:19

ruthholl [Member] said:

Back when the Star did investigative reporting regularly, Dick Walton did a big piece on a blind, black Daimler Chrysler employee who was let go. DeLaney defended him, along with Steve Wagner. They won. She is not to be trifled with. A very fine attorney who does her homework, plays it straight and wins.
Or as Myrta Pulliam said once about the mother (Ann): "She'd cut someone a new a--hole if she thought they deserved it."
Tough fighting Irish stock. Thrown in big brains and strong senses of social justice, and they are formidable women.

2012-01-06 08:00:30

hendy [Member] said:

The IBJ covers it now:

in a balanced, factual piece.

2012-01-06 09:44:56

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Many pats on the back to Susan, who's fighting the fight many of us lack the courage to begin.

May Gannett rue the day they got rid of a stellar columnist who was one of the reasons The Star used to be worth reading.

I'm sorry she couldn't cover the ongoing Simon saga(s) --not to mention the upcoming Super Bowl.

Dana writes about shopping for furs and jewelry today (yawn!) while Susan would have been digging beneath the bling.

2012-01-06 16:23:44

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Myrta's comment sounds at best half-respectful. And coming from her--who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth--it also sounds triffling. But I could be wrong.

And I digress.

Older workers--older by age or experience or both--are more expensive. And therein lies our problem. But in at At Will state, the case is tougher to prove. Luckily, the federal standards on this issue are tougher than Indiana labor laws.

Tee-hee. I just made a funny. I used the words "Indiana" and "Labor laws" in the same sentence. Given the Right to Work discussions going on now, that's morbidly comical.

Indiana: forever racing to the bottom. Lately, at breakneck speed. God forbid we try to atttract well-paying jobs--we worship at the Chamber of Commerce who wants the state to join 22 states who already have RTW. And who have lower average wages than America at large, and less-safe workplaces. Oy vey.

Go Ms. Delaney!

2012-01-06 21:59:13

hendy [Member] said:

Ann Delaney isn't without her failures; I have rarely seen her smile and with all she's seen, there are many reasons to scowl.

There are few heros in this life. She's one of them. Sometimes you can draw courage from the actions of others; she's that kind of person.

SG will get her day in court, maybe appeals court, and then Gannett won't be any wiser, and a small annotation will be made on an SEC 10K filing about a payment. I hope, no pray, that should SG's litigation be successful, that someone has the good sense to make sure it hits every reliable news website, RSS feed, and opinion column. We owe her that, should the verdict be rendered as we're guessing it will be. There's a bit of distance between now, and that point.

2012-01-07 08:04:02

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Maybe not too much distance, Hendy. God-willing.

2012-01-07 13:04:30

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

If Susan has grounds for a discrimination suit, Donna Snodgrass should have filed one when the Star replaced her with Susan...for the same reason: too old, too expensive.

2012-01-08 09:43:28

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Exactly, Tom.

Susan is fighting the fight many of us could have (should have) done.

More power to her!

2012-01-08 10:50:43

Former editor [unverified] said:

Hendy, it's Kathleen Delaney, not Ann.

Ms. Cynical, it's Kathy Kightlinger, not Dana.

Tom, I agree about Donna!

Go Susan!

2012-01-08 12:27:20

ruthholl [Member] said:

Just to correct the record: I think Donna Mullinix left the Star for Indianapolis Woman of her own volition -- she got a better deal at the Indianapolis Woman magazine. The Star was changing, and Donna was ready to move on -- but her job was not in jeopardy, as it would have been under Gannett. Susan G. at that time was a freelancer or stringer (as I recall). She wrote some for features, some for zones. She did step into the role of writing that old Talk of the Town column, but she did it differently than Donna and she did it very well. Donna M's performance was never an issue, altho sometimes her material was repetitive and features friends. Again, follow the money....Indianapolis Monthly once write Donna M. (Snodgrass to you) had the "best job in the city" -- very little work and "all that free food."
Thanks, guys.

2012-01-09 06:48:17

JohnG [unverified] said:

Sorry, former editor, it's Cathy with a C, not a K...and Dana Hunsinger Benbow did write a piece on shopping for bling and furs during Super Bowl. The poster above wasn't implying that Dana was doing the Talk of the Town column.

2012-01-09 07:39:32

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

That bling and furs piece was tone deaf.

2012-01-09 07:50:27

hendy [Member] said:

@former_editor, I understand that Kathy is the litigator in the post; I spoke of Ann, NOT Kathy, didn't I?

2012-01-09 10:33:20

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Yeah, I did mean Dana's tone deaf piece on bling and furs. Almost as bad as her essay about putting her butt in designer jeans.

And they wonder why nobody reads The Star....

2012-01-09 13:05:08

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Ruthie, I had in the back of my decrepit brain that Donna Snodgrass Mullinix was chuffed at the Star when she left for Woman (which was so much lighter in gravitas and as it turns out, financial stability), and I do not believe she would have left for a relatively lightweight operation on her own volition after so many years in harness with the Pulliams unless there was Handwriting on The Wall of some sort....

2012-01-09 18:36:02

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Methinks Donna M. was backed into a corner when she was passed over (once gain) as society/women's/features editor.

It was either quit with dignity or be relegated to the copy desk 'til retirement or Gannett, whichever came first.

2012-01-09 20:21:23

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

...make that "once AGAIN"...

2012-01-09 20:22:22

Doonna Mullinix [unverified] said:

Well, facts do often get in the way of good stories, don't they? I was, indeed, passed over for promotion to department head when Myrta's superior "experience" trumped mine, but that was years before I left The Star. I watched management make the paper leaner and meaner for the obvious reason of selling it, and when I got a truly good offer to be editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Woman, I jumped at it. Also, I was eligible for early retirement at the point. Admittedly, economic realities have been unkind to the magazine, but I had a good nearly five-year run there. As to Susan Guyett;s suit, I couldn't be more proud of her for pursuing it, and I'm sure she's right. Hello to all, whether you remember me accurately or not.

2012-01-10 13:43:33

ruthholl [Member] said:

Thanks to Donna Mullinix for clarifying the record. The larger point is that the problems that the Star experienced preceded Gannett. I was happy for Donna when she made her move. May more do the same. Jump ship. There is LIFE AFTER GANNETT, right people? And it can be much, much better than what current employees endure. Just my 2 cents worth here.
Thanks to everyone. We all care!

2012-01-10 18:55:53

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