New York Post Beats ‘Racially Hostile Workplace’ Lawsuit

A judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that editors acted unjustly toward black journalists.

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The New York Post has withstood lawsuits by two black journalists who charged that they faced a hostile work environment at the newspaper. It has also “resolved” a related case filed by Sandra Guzman, a black Latina who said she was harassed and fired after she spoke out against the infamous 2009 Post cartoon that many viewed as depicting President Obama as a chimpanzee.

Plaintiffs have not adduced evidence to show that they were treated differently than employees outside of their protected group because of their race,” U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield wrote, Nick Divito reported Tuesday for Courthouse News Service.

Austin Fenner, who is black, claimed in a November 2009 lawsuit against the paper, its parent company, and editors Michelle Gotthelf and Daniel Greenfield that they were subjected to a ‘racially hostile work environment,’ and that that there hasn’t been a single black editor on the Post’s Metro Desk in almost 10 years. 

Another black journalist, Ikimulisa Livingston, joined as a plaintiff, but Judge Schofield highlighted Monday how both plaintiffs conceded that they never heard their supervisors or co-workers utter racial epithets or make overtly racist remarks. The plaintiffs provided only second-hand accounts of their allegations, none of which concerned the named individual defendants.

” ‘The second-hand stories of discriminatory comments sporadically directed at other employees, while not irrelevant to assessing the totality of circumstances, in this case do not show that plaintiffs were treated differently from employees in their protected group because of their race,’ Schofield wrote. . . .”

Joe Pompeo added for Capital New York, “As for the other suit, in which Sandra Guzman alleged that she was harassed and fired for speaking out against a cartoon printed in the tabloid that was widely perceived as being racist, ‘The matter has been resolved,’ a Post spokesperson and an attorney for Guzman both told Capital. Neither would elaborate.”

As Sam Stein and Michael Calderone reported previously for the Huffington Post, “Guzman sued the Post in 2009 alleging that she had been repeatedly harassed in the newsroom and eventually fired for speaking out against a highly controversial cartoon about President Barack Obama. The cartoon depicted the author of Obama’s stimulus package as a chimpanzee shot dead.

“Additionally, she alleged that higher-ups at the Post had fostered a hostile work environment for minorities like herself — a black, Puerto Rican female. [Editor-in-Chief Col] Allan, she said, showed her and other colleagues a cell phone picture of a ‘naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis,’ while other editors and colleagues repeatedly used misogynistic or racist language. . . .”

However, Divito reported, “As for the alleged hostile work environment created by a verbally abusive editor, the judge noted testimony showing that that editor yelled at other reporters, including white ones.”