LA Times Has Wildly Condescending Answer for Latina Food Critic About Why She's Making Less Than Her White Male Counterpart [Updated]

Illustration for article titled iLA Times /iHas Wildly Condescending Answer for Latina Food Critic About Why Shes Making Less Than Her White Male Counterpart [Updated]
Image: David McNew (Getty Images)

Patricia Escárcega, a restaurant critic at the LA Times, filed a pay discrimination claim through her union this summer against her employer after she found out that she was being paid significantly less than her fellow co-critic, Bill Addison, a white man who was hired at the same time as Escárcega in 2018. On Monday, Escárcega wrote on Twitter that a decision had finally been made on her claim nearly six months after it had been submitted. “The letter says I deserve to make only two-thirds of what my co-critic is paid—even though we have the exact same job responsibilities—because I do not bring prestige to the paper and because the company says our job classifications aren’t the same,” Escárcega wrote of the memo sent to her by the Times.

In her Twitter thread, Escárcega claimed that the Times classified her as a “junior critic,” which was why she was paid less than Addison. However, in November of 2018, when the Times announced the hiring of Addison and Escárcega following the death of food critic Jonathan Gold, the word “junior” was nowhere to be found. The paper even applauded itself for the hiring of both critics, referring to them and several other hires as “an A-list of diverse journalists” who would carry out the mission of a more “comprehensive, engaged and world-class coverage of the city’s food scene.” Escárcega wrote that she was never made aware behind the scenes that she was considered junior to Addison until receiving the decision on her claim. Addison, for his part, wrote a letter of support to Times management stating that he and Escárcega performed the same work and should be paid equally. (Jezebel has reached out to both Escárcega and the LA Times and will update this post if we hear back.)

In a classic villain twist, instead of acknowledging their error and simply correcting the pay discrepancy, the LA Times doubled down in a statement sent to Los Angeles Magazine. In part, the statement blamed Escárcega’s union for her unequal salary and suggested that she is the one in the wrong for filing a grievance regarding her pay in opposition to a clause in the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“The company denies the discrimination claims that Patricia Escárcega has alleged in social media posts. For the employees, including Ms. Escárcega, who are represented by the Guild, the company and the Guild agreed on a pay scale which was approved as part of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), 388 to 3, in October 2019. Her pay is based on the framework in the CBA that was agreed upon and ratified by an overwhelming majority of the bargaining unit. The company has invested millions of dollars in improving salaries for the staff as part of the CBA.

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The LA Times’s statement went on to explain that because of Escárcega’s job classification and “years of experience,” she is compensated “well above the scale” and sited Addison’s accomplishments as the reason he’s paid more.

Ms. Escárcega’s pay differs from that of the colleague to whom she is comparing herself because he has significantly more experience than her as a critic and has won one of the most significant awards in food journalism. Experience is a bona fide factor justifying different pay amounts for employees under California’s Equal Pay Act.

Los Angeles reports that the letter is likely referring to a James Beard Award that Addison won in 2017 while working at a different publication.

Just a few days before Escárcega wrote that she was alerted to the decision on her claim, the LA Times settled a lawsuit for $3 million for, you’ll never guess, pay discrimination. The suit was brought by over 200 journalists in June and was settled last Tuesday. According to AP, “The discrimination lawsuit, filed in June, alleged that the Times violated California’s Equal Pay Act and the state’s Business and Professions Code. The paper and its former owners denied the allegations and don’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement agreement.”

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Update, 12:05 p.m.: A representative for the Los Angeles Times responded to Jezebel with the same statement published by Los Angeles Magazine. It reads, in full:

The company denies the discrimination claims that Patricia Escárcega has alleged in social media posts. For the employees, including Ms. Escárcega, who are represented by the Guild, the company and the Guild agreed on a pay scale which was approved as part of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), 388 to 3, in October 2019. Her pay is based on the framework in the CBA that was agreed upon and ratified by an overwhelming majority of the bargaining unit. The company has invested millions of dollars in improving salaries for the staff as part of the CBA.

The Media Guild of the West and the company agreed on a wage scale based on job classification and years of experience in the media industry. Prior to finalizing the wage scale, the company and the Guild allowed time for bargaining unit newsroom employees to challenge job classifications or experience ratings. While several individuals made such challenges, Ms. Escárcega did not do so. Once those challenges were resolved, the Guild and the company agreed in the CBA that initial placement on the wage scale of an individual such as Ms. Escárcega “shall not be subject to grievance and arbitration.”

Ms. Escárcega nevertheless filed a grievance through the union challenging her pay, which is based on her placement on the wage scale. She performs the same job duties today as when she was hired. Ms. Escárcega’s pay differs from that of the colleague to whom she is comparing herself because he has significantly more experience than her as a critic and has won one of the most significant awards in food journalism. Experience is a bona fide factor justifying different pay amounts for employees under California’s Equal Pay Act.

Ms. Escárcega’s compensation is well above the scale for her job classification and experience.

 The company has implemented many processes to address fairness and equity in pay. We take seriously our commitment to building a strong culture among our employees, one that values diversity, promotes inclusion and cultivates fairness.

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DISCUSSION

snide-o-mite
Snide-O-Mite

So this is the Heidi/Howard resume experiment in real time.

Gee, I wonder if a big time newspaper like the LA Times knows about that!