A $22 million settlement has been reached out of court in the lawsuit against Freedom communications by home delivery carriers of the Orange County Register. The case had drawn widespread media attention when the trial began back in September because the judge had barred the newspaper from reporting on the courtroom proceedings – although that was quickly struck down by an appeals court. So, the OC Register has been reporting on what was to be a long, drawn out case – that has now been cut short.
The class-action lawsuit on behalf of 6,000 current and former workers against the Register and Freedom Communications had claimed that newspaper delivery workers were improperly classified as independent contractors. Under the settlement, they will continue to be independent contractors, so that was a major victory for Freedom Communications. CEO Scott Flanders calls the settlement “fair to both sides.”
A claims settlement process will be established to award up to $22 million to the workers. Going forward, their contracts will be changed to provide new benefits to the carriers as independent contractors. The lawyers representing the workers claim those changes have an estimated value of $6 million, but Freedom Communications insists that the value is much less than that.
The judge still has to determine fees to be paid to the lawyers who represented the workers. They’ve asked for $12 million, but the company notes that the judge can award less.