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This is one for the scripts, even though Hollywood won’t like it. Hundreds of aging television writers have won the right to proceed with 23 class actions that accuse TV networks, studios, production companies and talent agencies of discriminating against them by hiring only people younger than 40. “Plaintiffs in a class action need not prove each class plaintiff was a victim of discrimination,” Second District Court of Appeal Justice Paul Boland wrote in an 81-page ruling in Alch v. Superior Court ( Time Warner Entertainment), B165638, which came down in September. “They must prove the existence of a discriminatory policy and, if they do so, they are entitled to classwide relief.” The lawsuit, filed by members of the Writers Guild of America, claims that networks and studios for years have maintained a systematic policy of refusing to hire or provide writing opportunities to men and women older than 40. Talent agencies are aware of the policy, the suit contends, and refer only younger clients for TV writing jobs. The writers claim that networks and studios “have a youth-oriented corporate culture that indiscriminately favors youth over age and experience” in order to generate higher advertising revenues by attracting “younger viewing audiences.” The suit names almost all of the major studios, networks and talent agencies, including Time Warner Entertainment, William Morris Agency, Walt Disney Pictures and Television, Fox Broadcasting Co. and many others. The defendants are represented by a who’s who roster of law firms that include Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Munger, Tolles & Olson; Proskauer Rose; O’Melveny & Myers; and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. The plaintiffs’ case is led by Sprenger & Lang, a firm based in Minneapolis. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy Jr. had thrown out the 23 class actions. But the court of appeal’s decision revived the litigation by concluding that the plaintiffs are raising legitimate discrimination claims under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. “The contention that the writers are required to plead facts showing individual refusals to hire � or face dismissal at the pleading stage is unsupported by either California or federal law,” wrote Boland. The ruling states that the writers’ suits can continue, even though a federal court case alleging the same facts was dismissed. The appellate opinion also allows claims by so-called “deterred applicants” — writers who didn’t apply for jobs because they knew about the “longstanding and long-known” policy of discrimination.

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