05/12/2014 — The Washington Post last month settled a lawsuit filed by an independent contractor who claimed the Post welched on its promise to refund unsold copies of the paper he bought for distribution to retailers such as CVS.
In the suit, Clinton, Md., resident Ricardo Smith says that the Post also reneged on this assurance to approximately 60 other independent contractors just like him. A federal judge had given Smith the green light to pursue a class action lawsuit on their behalf. But the settlement pre-empts that claim.
Terms of the settlement, filed April 24 with United States District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, are confidential. In a brief telephone conversation Smith confirmed there was a settlement but declined to elaborate. “I can’t talk about that, man.”
Lawyers for Smith and the Post did not respond to requests for comment.
But the lawsuit allegations and other publicly available documents provide an interesting window into the kind of Washington Post labor practices that the paper normally labels exploitative when done by anyone else.
The lawsuit also raises the question of whether the Post has been cooking its circulation figures by refusing returns and labeling those unsold papers as having been sold even though they were really not. The lawsuit claims that for years the Post failed to properly “record and account for Plaintiff’s returned Newspapers.”
Rachel Battista, a communications aide for the Alliance for Audited Media, formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulation, says the Post does not include returned papers in its total circulation numbers. Which leaves unanswered the question of how the Post defines papers as “returned.”
Nobody at the Post would talk about the lawsuit or even explain how the paper currently handles returns. Spokeswoman Kris Coratti did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Executive Editor Marty Baron and Managing Editor Kevin Merida also ignored inquiries. Gregg Fernandes, the Post‘s vice president for circulation, didn’t take a phone call and did not reply to an email.
Read more Washington Post Settles Lawsuit From Circulation Contractor