Jeffrey Gottlieb is suing the Los Angeles Times for age discrimination and a variety of related matters including emotional distress and failure to promote, according to legal documents obtained by TheWrap.
The LA Times and Editor-in-Chief Davan Maharaj are listed as defendants in the suit, filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles. It accuses them of violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act for demoting him while he was on disability leave following surgery for prostate cancer.
Gottlieb, 62, claims to have “performed his job in an exemplary matter, receiving numerous accolades, including a Pulitzer Prize,” according to the suit. Gottlieb and co-journalist Ruben Vives won the prestigious award in 2011 for their coverage of corruption within the city of Bell. The duo also won a George Polk award, but Gottlieb claims Times editors never told him they received one of “journalism’s top honors,” according to the suit.
An LA Times spokesperson provided the following statement to TheWrap: “The lawsuit is completely without merit. The Times did not and does not discriminate against employees on the basis of age or any other factor. When we have an opportunity to defend ourselves in court, we’re confident this will become abundantly clear.”
Additionally, the suit alleges that the Times: kept prize money intended for the writers; “haphazardly” treated award trophies, resulting in damage; neglected to include the writers’ names on a poster celebrating their awards; retracted a promise to pay for Gottlieb’s wife’s flight to the Pulitzer ceremony in New York; kept prize money designated for a celebratory party that never occurred.
Gottlieb claims, according to the suit, that he was not assigned another investigative project after winning the Pulitzer and was asked to cover Orange County. A Washington Post story eventually shed light on Gottlieb’s complaints in 2013, but Gottlieb continued to receive assignments that he felt were beneath him.
In 2015, Gottlieb went on disability leave after a prostate cancer diagnosis and missed almost two months of work. The suit claims Gottlieb was demoted to writing obituaries when he returned from leave.
Gottlieb uttered “I quit” when he continued to receive entry-level assignments and “felt forced to resign” over the incident.
Gottlieb is seeking economic, non-economic and punitive damages, including lost wages with interest. The suit claims that Gottlieb’s age was the reason for his treatment and that the Times “engaged in age discrimination by discharging employees over the age of 40 with greater frequency than other employees.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.