Three former sales representatives for the San Diego Reader filed a lawsuit against the alt-weekly in October, alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
The suit, filed by Kelly Bonelli, Amy McKibben and Beth Wexler (who have a combined 78-year work history with the Reader), alleges that publisher Jim Holman is responsible for allowing preferential treatment for men in the workplace, which intensified with the hiring of sales manager John-Paul Franklin in 2008.
"Plaintiffs' efforts to succeed within the company were frustrated by a 'boys club' that created a corporate culture in which the overriding environment was such that men were seen as superior and were given unfair advantages such as preferred leads and 'head starts' on new sales promotions," the suit claims.
Wexler, who worked for the Reader for more than 30 years, says she was "constructively terminated" (i.e. felt compelled to resign after conditions were made intolerable) in August 2009. McKibben, a 16-year employee, was fired in March 2011, as was Bonelli, a 26-year employee, who was terminated while on disability leave for "work-related stress."
The women obtained a right-to-sue letter from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Oct. 4, 2011. They allege that the Reader did not have a Human Resources department capable of handling discrimination or harassment complaints.
"For many years, women seemed to be tolerated, but not equal to men," the lawsuit states. "The environment became noticeably worse in 2008 when JP Franklin became the manger [sic] of the sales department.... Franklin has and displayed a very 'bullying' style of management, and it is ostensibly directed more toward women than men."
As examples, the plaintiffs say that Franklin would regularly engage in casual conversations with male staff, but abruptly stopped whenever a woman tried to join in. He "frequently" went to lunch with male employees, but rarely included female workers. Franklin is currently listed on the Reader masthead as "general manager."
Franklin's alleged conduct included, "telling women sales is a 'man's world,' withholding new sales promotions from women until after a man or men had been able to sell the new offer to one of their clients, and displaying favoritism toward men when re-assigning accounts."
Inquiries were sent to the Reader and California Catholic Daily, another publication operated by Holman. This post will be updated when we receive a response.