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T.J. Simers calls foul on LA Times, sues for wrongful termination

Veteran sports columnist T.J. Simers has filed a shocker of a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times. The 63-year-old writer had been writing three columns a week for the Times after working at the paper for more than two decades. Now, after what sound like serious breaches of journalistic ethics and a campaign of illegal retaliation, he is suing the paper for disability and age discrimination that, he claims, unfairly ended his career.

Among the astonishing claims in Simers’ lawsuit is his report that his editors, bowing to pressure from the publisher on behalf of his personal friend, told him to “go easy” when reporting on former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. It also seems the paper may have wanted to get rid of him because he wrote articles critical of major advertisers.

McCourt’s possible involvement in the retaliatory animus against Simers aside, his main claim is that his editors reduced his workload, forced him into an unfavorable contract, and ultimately dismissed him as the result of disability and age discrimination. Moreover, he claims that they retaliated him for taking lawful medical leave to deal with his health issues.

In March of this year, Simers told his Times editors that he had been diagnosed with complex migraine syndrome. According to the lawsuit, his editors reduced his column from three days a week to one, saying it was because he had raised concerns by writing a critical article about the Anaheim Angels and their owner. The Angels apparently advertise heavily on the Times website.

In June, Simers took time off to deal with his migraines, and he believes his editors took exception to his doing so. New, allegedly pretextual reasons to limit his work arose, including a false rumor he had agreed to participate in a reality TV show about his life, which would have violated Times policy. He was demoted from columnist to general assignments reporter.

After Simers and his bosses were unable to resolve their differences, he claims, they forced him to accept a one-year employment contract that allowed the Times to fire him at any time, which they did in September.

His wrongful termination lawsuit claims all of this was the result of campaign to get rid of him because of his age and disability, and because he had taken medical leave. He is seeking compensatory and exemplary damages.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Veteran Columnist Sues Los Angeles Times,” Matt Reynolds, Oct. 16, 2013

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