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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Bias Case Against New York Post Still Kicking

MANHATTAN (CN) - The New York Post remains embroiled in a lawsuit over its firing of an editor who complained about the sexually charged workplace and publication of a February 2009 political cartoon that likened President Barack Obama to a rabid chimpanzee.

Though U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield upheld claims against the Post and its editor-in-chief Monday, she threw out claims against the Post's parent company, News Corp.

Emmy Award-winning journalist Sandra Guzman, who is black and Puerto Rican, filed the suit in November 2009, two months after she was fired from the paper's Spanish-language publication Tempo.

The 38-page complaint claimed that a top editor sexually harassed women, showed nude pictures on his cellphone, entertained visitors at a strip club during the work day and referred to women as "old bitches."

Guzman also complained about an inappropriate request for a sexual favor, supervisors sleeping with interns and an editor calling his female staff his "harem."

"If a jury were to credit Ms. Guzman's evidence, it could reasonably find that the sexual harassment was severe and pervasive under the federal and state statutes and that the conduct complained of was neither petty nor trivial," Schofield wrote.

Guzman said the newsroom sexism and racism culminated with the publication of a cartoon portraying Obama as a chimp in February 2009.

In the cartoon, two officers examine a chimp with bullet holes in its chest, lying dead in a pool of blood. One officer says to the other, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

She claimed that when she complained, she was told to stop listening to Al Sharpton.

The Post's editor-in-chief, Col Allan, submitted to a more than seven-hour deposition in February 2012, but cited "editorial privilege" to avoid answering questions about the cartoon. U.S. District Judge Ronald Ellis rejected that position in July, and ordered Allan to answer several more questions.

The tabloid argued that there was no evidence that harassment was either severe or pervasive, and that Guzman failed to provide evidence of a sexually charged work environment.

It also argued that Guzman lost her job because poor ad sales had gutted Tempo, not because she complained about alleged racism and sexism.

"Ms. Guzman has pointed to evidence sufficient ... to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that defendants stated reasons for terminating her employment are pretextual," Schofield wrote.

Allan sought to have himself dismissed from the case, but Schofield said his "comments and behavior also ostensibly contributed to [Guzman's] hostile work environment."

Allen also argued that Guzman was not offended based on evidence that she "interacted civility with the co-workers who were harassing her and engaged in sexual behavior herself."

But Schofield said the evidence doesn't establish that she wasn't offended - and that such a notion is irrelevant. "Civility toward a harasser does not excuse harassment or signify subjective acceptance, particularly in an employment setting," Schofield said. "Moreover, sexual harassment by plaintiff's supervisors is not excused by whatever sexual conduct plaintiff may have engaged in with others."

A New York Post spokeswoman applauded Schofield's dismissal of the claims against News Corp.

"We look forward to presenting the truth about the remaining charges - which are completely unfounded - to a jury," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

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