Iconic African-American magazine Ebony is back in the news after former employees accuse the publication of unpaid wages and fraud.
According to The Root, the historic publication is once again headed back to court after former employees claimed that they were unpaid for work, laid off unfairly and that their 401k was not company-matched per the employment agreement.
The complaint, which was filed on Wednesday (Sept. 25), 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 401k contributions, in addition to failing to reimburse employees for payroll deductions that were never actually invested into 401k accounts.
The lawsuit comes just one week after Linda Johnson-Rice, daughter of the magazine’s founder decided to step down effective immediately from the magazine’s board claiming that the direction of the magazine did not go according to what she had envisioned.
“When I agreed to continue on with the companies after the sale to the CVG Group, I did so hopeful that the Ebony and Jet brands would continue to be a dominant and positive force in the African American community,” Johnson Rice said in the email obtained by the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously, despite my hopes, the last three years did not result in what I envisioned when the transition occurred, and because of that, I have made the decision to move on.”
Although the reasoning behind the resignation is unclear, what is clear is that the publication has been having staffing and legal issues since the company was bought by Texas investment group CVG in 2016. As previously reported, in 2017 freelancers and former employees started the viral hashtag #EbonyOwes before filing a lawsuit for unpaid wages. The employees were awarded nearly $80,000 in 2018 and Ebony laid off its entire digital staff before going on a print hiatus in the Spring of this year.