A veteran photography editor for Reuters in Los Angeles has been seeking damages by accusing the internationally acclaimed news agency of illegally firing him from a “liberal Democrat” work environment because he is conservative, pro-Donald Trump and gay.
Initially filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in late 2017, Sam Mircovich’s lawsuit landed last year with U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder and claimed numerous employment-law violations including sexual-orientation discrimination, retaliation based on political beliefs and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Mircovich, whose photographs have appeared in publications including the Los Angeles Times, asserted he often worked 18-to-20-hour days and won excellent performance reviews but, after he became a photo editor, nonetheless fell into a bureaucratic nightmare that robbed him of his dignity, mental health, supervisory authority over a troublesome subordinate and, ultimately, his $140,000-per-year job.
“[He] was never provided any explanation as to why, after more than 13 years with Reuters, his position was abruptly eliminated from the company,” the lawsuit alleges. “Despite having numerous offices throughout California and the U.S., Reuters did not offer the plaintiff an alternative position, even though he had a record of superior performance. . . . Reuters acted in a despicable manner and subjected him to cruel and unjust hardship.”
Mircovich believes it was “illegal” for his boss to ask him to cover the 2016 Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando as a photographer when he was a manager of photographers; he refused the assignment.
“There was no reason this plaintiff would have been requested to cover the Florida shooting, except that he is homosexual,” the lawsuit states.
Mircovich—who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Cal State Long Beach—also claims he fell out of favor after he challenged a colleague for publishing an anti-conservative Facebook post in 2017.
His lawyers told Snyder, “[He] was singled out and called a racist because of his support for the Republican Party.”
But news agency officials argued that Mircovich’s position was one of 10 eliminated as a company-wide cost-cutting measure and had nothing to do with his sexuality or politics.
In court, Reuters’ attorneys called the lawsuit “vague and ambiguous” and noted the organization has “many” gay employees and has “never based a decision to discipline or terminate employment . . . based on sexual orientation.”
They also said Mircovich rejected a $70,000 severance package when he was terminated.
Saying she’d carefully studied the case, Snyder formally ended the dispute before it could reach a jury.
“Even when viewing the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to Mircovich, there is nothing in the record that suggests that anybody at Reuters ever acted with discriminatory animus toward Mircovich because he is gay, much less that his sexual orientation played any role in Reuters’ decision to include his position in the RIF [reduction in force],” the judge ruled. “The Court thus finds that Mircovich has failed to create a genuine issue of material fact of sexual discrimination [for jurors to consider]. . . . It is undisputed that no one at Reuters ever used any homophobic names, made comments to Mircovich about his sexuality or uttered any anti-gay slurs.”
This month, Snyder, a 1997 appointment by President Bill Clinton, ordered the 59-year-old losing plaintiff to pay Reuters’ legal bills.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.