On Thursday, January 31, Judge Winston Lee released his decision regarding the lawsuit I filed in small claims court against The Georgia Straight.
Judge Lee ruled that, in his view, I was not a dependent contractor at The Straight—which means that I was not in an employee-like relationship with the paper—and that I am, therefor, not entitled to compensation for The Straight having terminated its 28.5-year relationship with me as a theatre critic, which they did without notice in September of 2016.
I’m disappointed, of course.
Judge Lee’s decision means that my lawyer, the fabulous Susanna Allevato Quail, won’t get paid. Generously, Susanna and her firm Allevato Quail & Roy agreed to take my case on a contingency basis, which means that Susanna would only have been paid if we had won some kind of settlement.
I had hoped that my case would set a precedent that would help to protect other workers in similar positions to mine. That hasn’t happened.
But, other than the outcome, the trial couldn’t have gone better.
Susanna was unbelievably incisive and on top of case law. And our witnesses were stellar. They were: Bill Millerd, the former managing artistic director of the Arts Club Theatre; Marsha Lederman, the Western arts correspondent for The Globe and Mail; Angela Konrad, director and professor; and Kathleen Oliver, who is still writing about theatre for The Straight—so her participation was particularly brave. (And she was a bulldog.)
Jerry Wasserman and John Lazarus both submitted expert written testimony.
Taking this thing to trial is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m glad I did it.
On January 8, the first day of the three-day trial, I was on the stand for over three hours by my calculation. I remember thinking, “This would be a very good time for the second coming of Christ.” The system is adversarial and the stakes are high.
I survived, though. At the end of the first day, after I’d given all of my testimony, I had this thought: “Regardless of the financial outcome, I’ve already won.” I was right.
I felt and still feel that The Straight treated me badly—as they have treated several other longstanding contributors—and I take enormous satisfaction in having held the paper to account publicly.