Vice Media, aka, the “Bad Place Where Millennials Want to Work,” was accused of pay discrimination last year when a female employee claimed that a male colleague she hired made about $25,000 more than she did—and was then allegedly given a promotion over her. Now, Vice is paying up. The company has agreed to a $1.875 million deal to resolve a class action lawsuit brought by an estimated 675 of the media company’s female employees.
The payout would have been larger, but as the Hollywood Reporter notes, Vice’s practice of hiring young women helped them avoid a heftier price tag; many of the employees were young, and younger employees tend to earn less than older, more experienced ones. (Vice reportedly had an unspoken “22 Rule”: “Hire 22-year-olds, pay them $22,000, and work them 22 hours a day.”) While that may be a silver lining for Vice, it certainly underscores the larger problem the company faces.
The suit alleged that Vice relied on prior salaries when setting pay for employees. Since women are typically paid less than men, they have lower starting wages, which perpetuated as female employees moved up the ranks and pay grades within the organization. The plaintiffs hired a statistician to determine whether there were any significant pay disparities between male and female employees, using anonymized salary data dating back to 2012. Additionally, more than 60 witnesses were interviewed for the litigation.
Per the Hollywood Reporter, Vice denies there was ever a centralized practice of using prior salary history to determine pay rate, but decided to settle the claims relatively quickly. After attorneys’ fees and other costs, members of the class action will get an average payout of about $1,600 per person.
The settlement comes as the company is in the midst of responding to a cultural crisis, following a New York Times article last year that detailed rampant sexual misconduct. Since then, former A&E Networks president Nancy Dubuc has taken over the company from founder Shane Smith.
The news comes days before Equal Pay Day, which is meant to symbolize how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Nationally, white women are typically paid 79¢ for every dollar a white man makes. Meanwhile, black women only get 63¢, and Latinas just 54¢ for every dollar white men make, while Asian women are paid the highest at 87¢.