No Tabloid For Old Men: Laid Off Photographers Take Daily News to Court

Two longtime Daily News staff photographers laid off in November are suing the tabloid for unlawful termination, citing age and gender discrimination. They seek compensatory and punitive damages, including legal costs.

According to a complaint filed with the State Supreme Court February 7 by John Roca, 60, and Linda Rosier, 48, the News systematically phased out veteran staff photographers in favor of younger, less experienced perma-lancers, whom the company does not pay medical or other benefits.

The suit also names Gretchen Viehmann, the News managing editor for photo. Ms. Viehmann planned on resigning from her post in November, amid a managerial shake-up, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family abroad. But since editor-in-chief Kevin Convey was replaced by Colin Myler in January she remains on the masthead, at least in the short term.

Mr. Roca began at the Daily News as a copy boy at age 18 and working his way up to staff photographer in 1979. He first noticed the alleged discrimination in 2010, and said that in early 2011 he told Ms. Viehmann that he was frustrated he was being overlooked in favor of younger photographers. After more than forty years at the paper, he said he had exclusive access to certain people and information.

For example, Mr. Roca said he had exclusive access to photograph Capri Anderson, Charlie Sheen’s breakdown girlfriend.

“The whole newsroom is abuzz about why YOU have this access,” Ms. Viehmann allegedly responded, “Make sure you work your goatly magic on Ms. Anderson, we’ll give it huge display.

But his “goatly magic” did not, apparently, work on News management. Mr. Roca was laid off in November.

Similarly, Ms. Rosier claims that in spite of her accolades and experience, she has been stereotyped as a photographer unfit for hard news stories after having children in 2002 and 2004.

In early 2011, Ms. Rosier claims to have met with Ms. Viehmann to complain about the intern-level assignments she was receiving, like “fluff pieces” for the Brooklyn section.

“Oh you mean you want to get off the mommy track?” the complaint says Ms. Viehmann told her, and “Don’t have you two young children?”

Although her weekday assignments improved at first, her weekend jobs soon deteriorated. While perma-lancers covered the Mermaid and West Indian Parades, Hurricane Irene and Occupy Wall Street, Ms. Rosier says she spent weekends photographing cupcakes.

Last April, photographer use of the company cars was revoked and they were told they would have to purchase their own cars. Additionally, both Mr. Rosier and Mr. Roca said they were put at a technological disadvantage. They were never trained for or given the video cameras, which reporters occasionally specifically requested for assignments.

In October, the paper gave Mr. Roca and Ms. Rosier Apple laptops outfitted with editing software with which they were unfamiliar with. When Ms. Rosier asked for training, she says, she was told there was no time and she would have to wait a few months. The next month she was laid off, told she had been picked because she was unfamiliar with the company’s new technologies.

She believes she was terminated unlawfully, discriminated against because of her age and gender; Mr. Roca also believes he was discriminated against because of his age. Both were among the most highly paid photographers in the newsroom.

Mr. Roca and Ms. Rosier are represented by Daniel Alterman of Alterman & Boop, currently also representing John Tiseo, 63, in a discrimination suit against the News.

“Rarely in my career as a civil rights lawyer have I seen a clearer case of age discrimination and retaliation than against Mr. Roca, and sex and age discrimination and retaliation with regards to Ms. Rosier,” said Mr. Alterman, who has represented clients suing the Daily News over five decades. “I look forward to vindicating their rights at trial.”

A spokeswoman for the Daily News declined to comment on personnel matters but said, “the charges are without merit and we plan on defending ourselves vigorously.”