Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jeff Gottlieb sued the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, claiming he resigned from the company due to “intolerable working conditions.”
Gottlieb’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges his bosses at the Times, including Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Davan Maharaj, committed multiple labor-related violations including harassment and retaliation. The filing, which asks for unspecified damages, comes more than a year after Gottlieb announced his exit to the newsroom in a pointed email.
“This is my final email from these treacherous waters,” said the email, which was obtained by media blog LA Observed and published in May 2015. “I follow nearly 100 others from editorial who have left the building in less than a year and a half. Perhaps that’s a hint there’s a problem.”
When reached by email, Gottlieb referred comment to his attorney, Carney Shegerian. Shegarian did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gottlieb and fellow Times reporter Ruben Vives’ work breaking the Bell corruption scandal won the paper a 2011 public service Pulitzer prize. While that award came with no prize money, Gottlieb and Vives’ reporting also netted the paper a $35,000 Selden Ring Award the same year. Gottlieb’s suit claims executives at the paper concealed how the funds were distributed.
According to the complaint, Gottlieb pressed his higher-ups about his concerns, including Maharaj, which allegedly set off a rancorous battle inside the building.
Gottlieb claims he was ultimately demoted and then forced out of the Times as a result of his insistence on an accounting of the prize money.
Times spokeswoman Hillary Manning denied the allegations.
“The lawsuit is completely without merit,” she said in an email. “The Times did not and does not discriminate against employees on the basis of age or any other factor. When we have an opportunity to defend ourselves in court, we’re confident this will become abundantly clear.”
The Times faced similar complaints of workplace hostility in a lawsuit filed by former sports columnist T.J. Simers in 2013. The paper was originally ordered by a jury to pay $7.1 million in damages, but a judge voided the ruling in January.