By Jay Conner, The Root
In what could be the final chapter in the tragic #EbonyOwes saga, The Root has learned that seven former employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against Ebony Magazine and its parent company, private equity firm Clear View Group.
The complaint, which was filed on Wednesday, names Ebony Media Operations LLC; CVG Group LLC; Michael Gibson, CVG Group co-founder and chairman; and Elizabeth Burnett, vice president of operations of CVG Group, as defendants and accuses them of “betraying the magazine’s employees and readers” by “engaging in a consistent pattern and practice of laying off their staff and failing to pay them their final wages.” Additionally, Ebony is accused of failing to reimburse employees for work-related expenses or pay out their unused vacation days.
The lawsuit also alleges that Ebony committed fraud by failing to match 401(k) contributions, in addition to failing to reimburse employees for payroll deductions that were never actually invested into 401(k) accounts.
The complaint, which The Root obtained a copy of, states: “Defendants failed to reimburse these employees for unlawful deductions from their wages for purported 401(k) retirement account contributions that were never actually paid into those accounts.”
The tenure of the seven plaintiffs ranged from April 10, 2017, up until June 14 of this year, when the entire digital staff was laid off without compensation—as The Root previously reported.
On June 15, 2016, CVG announced that it had acquired Ebony Media—which includes both Ebony and Jet magazines—and that it would be managing the operations of both going forward. However, since doing so, CVG has repeatedly failed to compensate employees and freelancers after terminating their employment, according to the complaint.
This culminated in the creation of the #EbonyOwes hashtag, at least one lawsuit to obtain lost wages, and plenty of vitriol from the writing community in response.
“Paying people for their work is a matter of basic human dignity,” the plaintiffs told The Root in a statement. “The practice of denying employees their wages immediately before firing them is especially harmful. By filing this lawsuit, we intend to hold Ebony and CVG Group to account for their actions.”
Neither Ebony nor Clear View Group has responded to The Root’s repeated requests for comment.
We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.
This article originally appeared in The Root.