Former LA Times Columnist T.J. Simers Sues Paper, Frank McCourt for ‘Wrongful Termination’

Former LA Times Columnist T.J. Simers Sues Paper, Frank McCourt for 'Wrongful Termination'

Simers claims he was discriminated against because of his age, his physical disability and because he was critical of McCourt

Sports columnist T.J. Simers sued former employer the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday for wrongful termination and age discrimination, also naming former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, whom he accused of interfering with his job status.

Simers, who now works at the O.C. Register, disappeared from LAT's pages over the summer. In his first column for the Register, Simers accused LAT's publisher of ordering employees to refrain from criticizing his friends — namely, McCourt.

Now, Simers’ allegations are far more serious.

Also read: Former LAT Columnist: Management Said to ‘Tone Down’ Criticism of Publisher's Pal Frank McCourt

Simers, 63, worked for LAT for 23 years. In March, Simers claimed, he was diagnosed with “complex migraine syndrome.” Two months later, he was chastised for a “public behavior problem,” his columns were reduced and LAT's managing editor, Marc Duvoisin, told him to take a medical leave.

His last column was published on June 3. By August, Simers was given a “final warning” for various ethical violations, despite having no prior knowledge that any of his actions were against LAT's ethics policy and the fact that, Simers said, “at all times, plaintiff performed his job duties in an exemplary manner and earned awards and accolades for his work as a columnist.”

When Simers inquired about the status of his employment, he said, he was offered a one-year contract that could be terminated at any time for any reason. Simers instead went to the Register. His rocky relationship with LAT at the end of his tenure, he said, was because of discrimination by the paper against his health problems and age.

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McCourt, Simers says, “intiated orders to stop negative press to be written about him through his relationship with Times publisher, Eddie Hartenstein.”

In 2011, for instance, Simers said he was told not to write about the Mattel Children's Charity because Dodgers players were donating to it instead of McCourt's charity, “Think Cure.”

In addition, the suit said, “plaintiff and three of his colleagues were told to not to write anything negative about defendant Frank McCourt. Defendants implied that employees’ jobs would be in jeopardy if they wrote any negative information concerning defendant McCourt. Plaintiff was told to ‘go easy’ and ‘don’t be tough’ when writing about defendant McCourt in plaintiff's columns.”

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McCourt wasn't the only person who had influence over LAT's articles, Simers said. In May, “defendant Duvoisin expressed serious concerns and criticism to Simers about plaintiff's column written about the owner of the Anaheim Angels’ owner, [Arte] Moreno, two weeks earlier. The Anaheim Angels advertises on the Times’s website.”

The suit added: “Plaintiff believes that his employment was heavily influenced and impacted by outside parties within the Anaheim Angels organization.”

The Times declined to comment to TheWrap, but in a story about the suit published by the Times, spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said: “We wished T.J. Simers well when he left the L.A. Times to write for the O.C. Register and continue to do so. But, the claims in his lawsuit are without merit. As this is now an ongoing litigation, we will defer further comment.”

Simers is asking for unspecified damages of at least $25,000.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

  • Amount?

    “Simers is asking for unspecified damages of at least $25,000.”

    Huh??? You need to add a couple zeroes there bud. What's the point in suing for $25K? I'd sue for 23 years worth of salary, seeing you could have potentially wrote there for another 23 years if no ageism existed.

    Plus all the stuff about favoritism is disgusting by the LAT.

    • Ann Knickerbocker

      I know, right? I learned the hard way, you don't piss off wealthy advertisers.

  • Bring Back the Chandlers

    Imagine if Woodward and Bernstein had worked for this version of the LA Times…

  • Brian

    “Anaheim” Angels?
    Good God, dude, they've been the LA Angels for 10 years now!

  • JayHova

    I can't stand Simers, though I can see why he would be upset. But many of his articles lacked credibility and substance; rather he only wrote things to be provocative, instead of writing things that needed to be written, and more importantly, things that were based solely on facts. So I guess I don't feel bad if the guy with questionable morals got screwed by more powerful guys with questionable morals.