Steven Gellman, the former publisher of the Los Angeles Times magazine, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Tribune Company, seeking $13 million in damages for wrongful termination, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of business and professions code.
In the suit, filed with the L.A. County Superior Court, Gellman said that, shortly after taking over as publisher, he received complaints from customers in low-income and “demographically minority neighborhoods” that they were not receiving the magazine. Those customers were still paying the full subscription price.
The complaint states that Gellman brought this to the attention of his superior, John T. O’Loughlin, who said there was a “story” for this.
In a meeting on an unrelated subject, Gellman claims he witnessed sexual harassment and was again rebuffed when he tried to contact Human Resources.
After the complaints, “defendants launched personal attacks against Plaintiff’s character and work habits in an attempt to isolate him from the other employees and weaken his position as publisher of the magazine.”
He was later fired for “damaged relationships, inability to manage his direct reports, and poor revenue.” Gellman says those reasons were false and that he received bonuses for hitting revenue targets.
Gellman believes he was fired both for inquiring into the magazine’s unethical distribution and for accusing his colleagues of sexual harassment.
Most of the money the suit asks for is related to his firing, but his other claims relate to those attacks against his character.
The complaint alleges that Gellman was falsely accused of committing battery, which damaged his “reputation and ability to earn a living.” Adding onto that, it claims that Gellman has suffered losses in earnings and benefits, as well emotional damage.
Tribune’s senior vice president of corporate relations gave Fishbowl LA the following statement: ““After reviewing the lawsuit just filed by Mr. Gellman, we believe the claims contained in it are without merit. As this is a matter of ongoing litigation, we will defer further comment.”
When TheWrap contacted Weitman, Tribune had nothing to add.
The complaint also includes the Times and Scott Pompe, the Times' senior vice president for advertising and targeted media.
The Times recently had to pay employees $32 million in a settlement over its controversial employee stock ownership plan.