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Following explosive lawsuit, Paradigm boss announces million dollar relief fund for laid-off staff

By | Published on Thursday 9 April 2020

Paradigm Talent Agency

The boss of talent agency Paradigm, Sam Gores, has launched a new relief fund to support staff members laid off as a result of the coronavirus crisis, while also apologising to his team about way the firm’s rapid and severe COVID-19 measures were implemented last month.

It’s been widely reported that up to 250 staff members were temporarily laid off by Paradigm in the US as the COVID-19 shutdown began. Although most talent and booking agencies have had to make difficult decisions in recent weeks, there was particular criticism of the way the layoffs were instigated at Paradigm and the impact it would have on those employees’ health insurance. So much so that healthcare cover for those affected was quickly extended.

Then last week one of those employees laid off, long-time Paradigm agent Debbee Klein, filed an explosive lawsuit further criticising the agency and Gores personally over their response to the COVID-19 crisis, while also making an assortment of other allegations about the CEO’s conduct and management of the firm.

Although Paradigm and Gores insist that Klein’s allegations are “false, frivolous and scurrilous”, the agency seemingly acknowledges that it didn’t handle last month’s layoffs as well as it could.

In a memo to staff that’s been published by Pollstar, Gores writes that – while the “hard and painful” layoffs were “vital” given the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on the music, movie and TV sectors which account for a significant portion of Paradigm’s business, “I realise that the way the message was conveyed to you lacked compassion and made you feel alienated”.

The memo goes on: “From the beginning, we have considered these layoffs temporary and it bears repeating that our intention is to bring as many of you back as possible. Over the past weeks, we have been working to mitigate the effects of these temporary layoffs and provide extended benefits, comfort, and assistance as we prepare for this pandemic to end and go back to work as a community at the agency I’m proud to call my home”.

The key scheme to mitigate those effects is a new $1.1 million employee relief fund, more details of which should be with affected staff members by tomorrow at the latest. Healthcare cover has also been extended to the end of June and Gores says, on that point, “we will continue to monitor the situation closely”.

Elsewhere in the memo Gores reveals that the agency has “secured interim financing that will provide a bridge through this global crisis”, that he himself will forego his salary for at least the rest of the year, and “like all other agencies industry wide, staff above coordinator level are working at reduced wages until business picks up again”.

The memo concludes: “I am deeply sorry about the financial impact this crisis has had on so many of our colleagues, friends, and families as we confront one of the most urgent health and economic challenges of the modern era”.