Reporter fired for running for office wins labor decision

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. — A state labor commission has found a newspaper unlawfully fired a reporter who ran for office.

The director of the Department of Industrial Relations will review an appeal by the Daily Triplicate of the recent decision, in which the labor commission found the newspaper discriminated against reporter Kent Gray for participating in First Amendment-protected activities after he decided to run for county board of supervisors.

The commission ordered Gray be reinstated and reimbursed for lost wages. The newspaper is appealing the decision. If the director affirms the commission's ruling, the case will likely end up in court.

Daily Triplicate attorney Stuart Miller said the case was about the newspaper's First Amendment right to maintain its objectivity.

Miller said the newspaper cites a Washington state ruling in which a majority of judges found a newspaper had the right to control its editorial content.

“The facts here were pretty strong,” Miller said. “This guy wasn't just signing a petition or making a political contribution, this guy was running for the county board of supervisors.”

But Gray said his termination should be considered only a labor issue.

“I don't think they have a legal standing and I don't think they have a philosophical standing either,” Gray said.

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