IBT Media is allegedly breaking labor law

Newsweek's parent company only pays employees once a month despite laws mandating twice monthly, according to multiple former and current staffers

IBT Media, the parent company of International Business Times and Newsweek, has been violating New York labor law for years by breaking rules for how frequently employees are paid, according to multiple employees affected.

Nine former and current IBT Media employees told CJR that they are paid only once a month, including Benjamin Reeves, who worked for International Business Times from March until September 2012. But according to the state Department of Labor, that pay schedule is against the law.

A spokesperson for the New York state Department of Labor told CJR: “In general, the Labor Law specifies how often a covered employee is to be paid. Manual workers need to be paid weekly while clerical, and most other employees, can be paid semi-monthly. The only employees that can be paid on a monthly basis are commission salespersons.”

The employees CJR spoke to were regular, salaried employees. According to the Department of Labor’s spokesperson, an employer found in violation of wage payment law faces fines of up to $1,000 for the first offense.

A spokeswoman for IBT Media had this to say, “The company takes its employment obligations seriously. “For that reason, the company has been reviewing its payroll practices in consultation with counsel. Upon completion of its review, if there are violations, they will be corrected.” The spokeswoman declined to comment on specific allegations.

All of the employees contacted either didn’t know or only recently learned that the frequency with which their paychecks arrived broke the law.

“I just learned about the twice-a-month law today,” a current employee who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal told CJR last week. “I’m pretty angry.”

They may not have known, but IBT Media’s higher-ups likely did. Derneeka Cruse was IBT’s human resources director up until she resigned two weeks ago. She told CJR that she informed management that paying once a month was a violation of labor law last August—but nothing was done about it. IBT Media would not comment to CJR on Cruse’s accusations.

“I wouldn’t say it was completely ignored, but it wasn’t a priority,” Cruse said.

Cruse said that she began working at IBT Media in July of 2013 and almost immediately realized that the company was violating labor laws. She said that she made it aware of the problem, but efforts to fix it were “repeatedly just prolonged and prolonged and delayed and delayed” until it became clear that “it wasn’t happening.”

It wasn’t until the Department of Labor stopped by IBT Media’s offices, Cruse said, that management really paid attention. Neither the state nor the federal departments of labor had any record of visiting IBT Media, officials from both departments said. IBT Media had no comment on the matter.

When Cruse realized that things weren’t going to change and management wasn’t listening to her, she decided to leave the company, she told CJR. The pay issue wasn’t the entire reason, she said, but it was definitely a factor. “I don’t care to represent companies that are not abiding by laws and that are not engaging in ethical practices,” Cruse said. “That is something I feel very strongly about.”

As for IBT’s current employees, they just want to get paid when New York state law says they should: every two weeks.

“Your rent is already due when you’re waiting for your paycheck, and you still need to account for cellphone, internet, and utility bills, your next subway card, your food, your credit card payment, and spending money all in the first week of the month,” another current employee said.

The company has been in the news lately for its founders’ ties to Olivet University, founded by controversial evangelical minister David Jang. The Guardian, Mother Jones, and Medium have published long investigations. Mother Jones’ report accused IBT of using church members and Olivet students as free or exceedingly cheap labor, sometimes in violation of their visas.

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Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison.