After years of paying women less than men, Vice Media will now have to pay $1.875 million in a class-action lawsuit, the Hollywood Reporter reports.
The lawsuit was initially filed last year by former employee Elizabeth Rose, who discovered women at the company made significantly less money than men after reviewing internal memos. After filing, other employees joined the lawsuit and the company now has to settle claims with an estimated 675 women.
The lawsuit alleges that because Vice relied on prior salaries (which the company denies) to establish pay many women at the company weren’t paid the same as men despite similar experience and work, with 60 witnesses interviewed. A statistician hired by the plaintiffs estimated that “the amount of underpaid wages to female employees appeared to range between $7,000,000 and $9,740,000.”
So why did the payout number end up being $1.875? Because when the age and experience of women employees were taken into account, many of them were younger and therefore cheaper hires. As Fast Company notes, Vice had “an unspoken ‘22 Rule’: ‘Hire 22-year-olds, pay them $22,000, and work them 22 hours a day.’”
This might as well be the unspoken rule in media, period. Enlisting young, female labor to build a media brand kills many birds with one stone: CEOs profit off cheap labor from employees who don’t yet know their worth and are continually underpaid compared to their male colleagues, older women journalists face discrimination and companies get an aura of fake girl power to sell to readers and investors on the basis of representation alone (no matter if they’re underpaid and overworked behind the scenes.) Gender diversity has long been important to many companies, Vice included, insomuch as it provides some cosmetic changes to historically bro-filled brands. Until women are valued behind the scenes and treated equally to their male colleagues, that representation means nothing.