Siding with the New York Post and its defense lawyers at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan on Monday dismissed a racial discrimination lawsuit two former African-American Post reporters brought against the tabloid. The decision comes one month after Schofield refused to toss a similar racial discrimination suit brought by a onetime Post editor.
Schofield acknowledged that the staffers “endured a raucous work environment” in which supervisors “yelled and cursed at reporters.” But the judge ultimately concluded that the plaintiffs’ hostile work environment claim couldn’t survive summary judgment.
“Plaintiffs have not adduced evidence to show that they were treated differently because of their race, much less of severe or pervasive race-based harassment,” Schofield wrote. “Plaintiffs concede that they never heard their supervisors or co-workers utter a racial epithet or make an overtly racist remark.”
A former Post editor named Sandra Guzman, who identifies as black and Puerto Rican, sued the tabloid in November 2009, alleging she was subjected to a hostile work environment. A few days later, an African-American named Austin Fenner, who had recently been terminated from a gig as a reporter for the Post’s city desk, brought his own employment discrimination case against the paper. A few days after that, a Post staffer named Ikimulisa Livingston joined Fenner’s case. The same law firm, Thompson Wigdor, represents all three plaintiffs.
The three employees raised some similar grievances. For instance, all three complained about racist comments by editorial higher-ups. Guzman and Fenner both said they were fired after complaining about a controversial Post cartoon that drew charges of racism.
After a lengthy discovery period, Schofield refused to grant summary to the Post in the Guzman case on Oct. 29. The judge tossed Post parent News Corp as a defendant, however.
Fenner and Livingston weren’t so fortunate. In Monday’s ruling, Schofield noted that the Post had nonretaliatory reasons for firing both Fenner and Livingston. Fenner scored poorly on performance reviews and Livingston worked another job as a “mystery shopper” when she was supposed to be writing about New York courts for the Post, the judge wrote.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision to dismiss the case in its entirety,” said Kasowitz Benson partner Mark Lerner, who represented the Post.
Plaintiffs counsel Kenneth Thompson of Thompson Wigdor was not immediately available for comment.