Gannett is moving slowly to produce documents in a lawsuit filed by a group of seven young teenage Rochester Democrat and Chronicle paperboys who allege they were molested by an adult circulation manager in the 1980s, the Rochester Beacon reported on Monday.
The national newspaper chain, which owns nine daily newspapers in New Jersey, argues that the paperboys were not entitled to make claims under New York’s Child Victims Act because the paperboys were employees. Instead, attorneys representing Gannett say they should going after the state Workers’ Compensation Board, not them.
“For injuries caused by an employer’s negligence, workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy,” Gannett attorney Peter Abdella, said court papers filed in September.
But according to the Beacon, the former paperboys “are in a Catch-22 bind.”
“If they were employees, their only recourse under state law is workers’ comp; if they were not employees, only (former circulation manager Jacks) Lazeroff and not Gannett can be called to task,” the report stated.
An attorney representing the paperboys slammed Gannett in their comments to the Beacon.
“Rather than cooperate with the carriers’ requests for documents that might bolster their case, Gannett supplied tens of thousands of pages of irrelevant materials while withholding relevant materials under spurious claims of attorney-client privilege,” the Beacon reported the lawyer as saying.
Lazeroff died in 2003.
When one of the victims, an 11-year-old boy trying to help his single mother support their family with a paper route, came forward in 2018 and contacted a Gannett reporter about being sexually assaulted, he expected the journalist to tell his story. Instead, he heard back from a Gannett human resources manager who offered to help him find a psychologist, according to a report by Poynter last year.
While fighting a lawsuit in New York, Gannett’s New Jersey papers have run editorials recently seeking to protect their use of independent contractors to deliver newspapers. They claim that Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is trying to force newspapers to make their carriers – the days of the young, neighborhood paper route are long gone – employees.
Today, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a plan that would ease the transition of companies making gig workers into employees.