MANHATTAN (CN) — A longtime journalist and author on Monday demanded punitive damages from Time Inc., claiming its fraud, retaliation and culture of male cronyism cost her a top editorial job and hurt her book sales.
Catherine Mayer claims in Federal Court that she was called a “diva” and systematically removed from her responsibilities at Time, which hired her in 2004 and promoted her to London bureau chief in 2006 and European editor in 2012.
The corporation is the only defendant.
Mayer began her career at The Economist, worked as a deputy editor at two magazines, Business Traveller and International Management, and worked for 11 years as a foreign correspondent at the German news weekly Focus. Her third book, “Attack of the 50 Ft. Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World!” was published this year by HarperCollins. That book is not mentioned in the lawsuit, as it was published after she left Time.
Mayer claims Time eliminated her job immediately after the release of her book, “Prince Charles — The Heart of a King,” in 2015. She says her termination hurt her book sales and her reputation, as people Time let her go because her research for the book was defective or for other performance-related reasons.
The real reason, she says, is that she’s a woman.
Shortly after she was named European editor, Time hired Matt McAllester, a freelance editor from New York who had a successful career as a foreign correspondent for Newsday and other publications to assist her. Mayer says McAllester quickly sought to undermine her and eventually got her job as European editor.
McAllester complained about her to Time management in New York in 2012, Mayer says. He called her a “diva” for using her cellphone during editorial meetings and for asking for administrative and research support to make complex travel arrangements when she was on deadline, according to the complaint.
“Calling a woman a ‘diva’ is on its face loaded and sexist, a common way of reducing women who assert themselves,” it adds.
Mayer calls the complaints by McAllester “untrue or grossly exaggerated, and also unfair and discriminatory.”
Time then started killing her story ideas about powerful women, she says, for instance, rejecting her story pitch on the impact of Angela Merkel’s two terms as chancellor on German women, telling her that “stories about women aren’t interesting to the wider TIME readership.”
In 2013, New York editors began to deprive Mayer of her editorial duties, for instance, by preventing her from editing a cover story she had suggested — which she calls very unusual — under the pretext of freeing her up for other work. Later that year they airbrushed her out of the editing job and listed her as a writer in an email to staff.
That move came days after she had flown to the United States with British Prime Minister David Cameron on a private jet, and was the only journalist on the trip who had secured a sit-down interview with him. She claims Time butchered the editing of that story so badly she asked for her byline to be removed, but Time refused.
As she expected, Mayer says, the story was “subjected her to heavy criticism.”
The constant harassment from McAllester and Time caused her to suffer from medical issues including “extreme stress and migraines so severe that they caused her to dry-heave.”
In June 2014, Mayer was on book sabbatical. She returned in August 2014 to find out that McAllester had become her direct supervisor. By 2015, most of her assignments had been taken away and she was told she was being terminated “due to a reduction in the work force that made her position redundant.”
Mayer says her “duties were systematically taken away from her and given to colleagues with no more experience or qualifications than her because they were younger and male.”
As there were important European stories coming up when she was terminated, including the 2015 UK election and the 2016 Brexit referendum, “which observers would have expected plaintiff to cover, her sudden departure stoked rumors that TIME must have some significant reason to remove her,” the complaint states.
She seeks punitive damages for pain and suffering, physical injury in the form of debilitating migraines, harm to reputation, loss of past, lost wages and earning capacity, lost enjoyment of life, fraudulent misrepresentation, sexual discrimination, age discrimination, retaliation and hostile workplace.
She is represented by Frederic C. Weiss in New York City.