Reading Eagle Offers No Severance to 52 Staffers It Laid Off
The Reading (Pa.) Eagle laid off 52 employees on April 30, not an unusual move in the newspaper industry these days. But management took the extraordinary step in offering no severance to the departing workers, according to Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher’s report today. In addition, the newspaper offered only two weeks of extended health-care coverage.
“What has most people upset is there is absolutely no severance pay,” said Al Walentis, who had worked at the paper since 1974 and served as multimedia projects coordinator when he was let go Thursday. “I tried to show some professionalism. I offered to help explain the job to someone else who would take over, but they said no.”
Walentis, 57, said he was asked to leave Thursday soon after finding out his job had been terminated.
The same was true for Rebecca VanderMeulen, a four-year reporter. “I am not surprised it happened, just the way it happened,” she said, referring to the lack of severance and being escorted from the building. “I wanted to stay and wrap up some loose ends [on her beat], but they didn’t think it was appropriate.”
Assistant Photo Editor Ron Romanski might have the longest tenure at the paper, at 45 years. He said his father was a chief photographer years before him. “It shocks everybody I talk to,” he says of the lack of severance. “I’m thinking about suing them. I didn’t think it would happen to me.”
Publisher William Flippin did not return Strupp’s phone calls to comment. Associate Publisher Larry Orkus declined to comment on the situation, but confirmed in an e-mail to Strupp that the layoffs had occurred without severance pay. He said each worker was given two weeks of health benefits, which covered the period needed to apply for COBRA insurance.