GLASS CEILINGS

‘Men Dominate’: Vice Media Hit With Pay Discrimination Suit

As a former manager at Vice Media sues the company for allegedly paying women far less than men, female employees tell The Daily Beast: ‘Yeah, well, it’s true.’

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

The women at Vice Media aren’t done yet.

Following a wave of reports of sexual harassment within the media giant, a new lawsuit alleges Vice also violated New York and California laws by paying their women workers less than men who do the same jobs.

As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, a lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Elizabeth Rose, a manager for Vice Media from 2014 to 2016. In the complaint, Rose claims she became aware of the alleged gender pay gap after receiving a list of Vice employees and their salaries during her oversight of a project. Rose claims the list showed women earned “far less” than men doing “the same or substantially similar work.”

In one instance, the complaint alleges a subordinate whom Rose actually hired made $25,000 more than she. That same male subordinate was promoted to be Rose’s supervisor, the complaint continues, allegedly due to him being a "good personality fit" for male clients.

“Men dominate Vice Media's leadership and management,” Rose’s attorney wrote in the complaint. “Defendants discriminate against women by permitting their predominantly male leadership to favor men overtly in pay, promotions, and other opportunities regardless of their qualifications and to otherwise discriminate against women. Defendants' leadership fosters or condones a company culture that marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women.”

The lawsuit seeks back pay, unspecified damages, and attorneys fees.

"We have just been made aware of the complaint and are reviewing it," a spokesman told The Daily Beast Tuesday evening, after this story was first posted.

"As a company, we have made a significant commitment to a respectful, inclusive and equal workplace. That commitment includes a pay parity audit started last year, a goal of 50/50 female/male representation at every level by 2020, and the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board."

Rose’s lawsuit seeks class-action certification, and her attorney is hoping current and former women at Vice will come forward with their own stories.

“The goal of all this is to have women share their stories,” Rose’s attorney, Michael Morrison, told The Daily Beast. “That’s how we prove discrimination. But it’s very hard in the entertainment industry to stand up. The fear in media and entertainment is overwhelming. It’s real.”

Finding them might be easier than he knows.

“I remember finding out (through snooping) that I was getting £10k less than this lazy prick and just going home at lunch lol. The day I mentally signed out.” former Vice journalist in London Joanna Fuertes-Knight, tweeted in January.  Fuertes-Knight received a $24,000 sexual harassment settlement from Vice, according to The New York Times, and has been an outspoken critic of the company on Twitter.

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She continued, “[R]eminiscing about the time VICE said they wanted to bring in an editor to split my workload...then brought in a white, Oxbridge-educated man and personal friend of my line manager + gave him more money than me, a better title and a 4-day-week contract.”

And when news of Rose’s lawsuit broke on Twitter, The Intercept ‘s Alice Speri tweeted, “When VICE hired me in 2014 they offered $35K, which I negotiated to $40K. For months I was practically the only staff writer (+ many abysmally paid freelancers). There was technically another "head" writer but he had less experience & barely wrote—he made nearly twice my salary.”

She followed up with: “(I should add this was Vice News”).

Stateside, a former employee at Vice News, who asked not to be named so as not to offend her current employer, told a similar story.

"Over the course of my tenure, despite the dramatic increase in responsibilities I was given, I was never given a title change or a significant raise, while my male colleagues who were less productive were elevated," she told The Daily Beast. "When I asked for a raise I was told that my ‘attitude’ was a problem."

Another former employee who asked not to be named for fear of breaching a non-disclosure agreement, told The Daily Beast that the alleged pay disparity between male and female employees was obvious.

“It’s disheartening to say the least when you’re trying to get by with sex work on the side and an office wide email about a lost Rolex in the men’s bathroom drops into your inbox,” she said.

Internally, Vice brass has acknowledged that pay disparity between the sexes is a problem.

In January, following a long-awaited expose of alleged sexual harassment in the company, Vice chief operations officer Sarah Broderick sent a memo to staff promising drastic company-wide reform, including a 50-50 ratio of men and women “at every level across the organization” by 2020 and pay parity by the end of 2018.

Inside the company, news of the class-action lawsuit was greeted with shrugged shoulders.

“I honestly haven’t heard anyone talk about it,” one current employer told The Daily Beast. “Everyone reaction is just like of like ‘yeah, well...it’s true.’”

“And I’m just wondering if I qualify for the class-action. Which I probably do”