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Former employees of The Dallas Morning News have filed an employment discrimination suit against the newspaper and its parent company Belo Corp. alleging among other things that they were terminated from their jobs because of their age. The plaintiffs filed their complaint in Powell, et al. v. The Dallas Morning News, et al. on Oct. 24 in a U.S. district court in Dallas. The plaintiffs are 18 former writers, editors and artists at the newspaper who were all above age 40 — 16 of the 18 were older than 50 — when the newspaper terminated their employment. The suit stems from a round of layoffs in 2004 in which Belo terminated 250 workers at the newspaper as part of a reduction in force. This year, more than 100 workers at the newspaper accepted buyout offers from Belo. The 2004 terminations came on the heels of a scandal at the newspaper in which Belo reported false circulation numbers to its advertisers and subsequently issued $23 million in refunds, as alleged in the complaint. The majority of the Powell plaintiffs also were participants in Belo’s pension program — a retirement plan that Belo had curtailed in 2000 by limiting participation to employees hired by June 30 of that year. “The plaintiffs believe that employees over age 40 were targeted and employees who remained in the pension plan were targeted,” says Karen Shropshire, a Dallas solo who represents the plaintiffs. “And we believe the two were related.” Robert Sheeder, a partner in the Dallas office of Jenkens & Gilchrist who represents Belo and the Morning News in the suit, did not return a telephone call seeking comment before presstime.

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