MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal class action lawsuit accuses the New York Times of widespread internal race, age and gender discrimination, favoring younger, white "handsome men."
The 61-page complaint filed Thursday by Ernestine Grant, 62, and Marjorie Walker, 61, accuses the New York Times Company, along with CEO Mark Thompson and executive vice president Meredith Levien, of multiple violations of the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.
The lawsuit claims the discrimination practices manifested in the company's failure to compensate and promote older, black and/or female employees at the same rate as younger, white and/or male employees.
Grant and Walker say the Times selected "older, black and/or female employees" for buyouts during company-wide layoffs at "rates that are statistically unlikely to have occurred by chance."
According to the complaint, since her hiring by Thompson in 2013, Levien made statements that were "shockingly rife with racially charged innuendos" and pushed for the Times staff to be "people who look like the people we are selling to." She even allegedly told staffers "this isn't what our sales team should look like."
The complaint says that older and minority employees were then "packaged out" and those "vacancies were rapidly filled" with white employees under the age of 40.
The lawsuit alleges that Grant and Walker were denied promotions and raises and compensated less than younger white employees with "far less" qualifications and experience.
Grant and Walker filed multiple protected complaints regarding wage disparities, race and age discrimination. The complaints were ignored and caused Grant and Walker to be subjected to "scathing" retaliatory scrutiny, harassment and racially motivated buyout offers, Thursday's lawsuit states.
Levien's discriminatory comments allegedly manifested themselves in private "networking events." She gave young white employees premium tickets and other gifts to woo clients, which were never offered to minority employees, Grant and Walker say.
The complaint says that younger white staffers were given "Summer Fridays", time off that was never offered to older, minority employees.
The lawsuit also alleges that Brendan Monaghan, former senior vice president of advertising and publisher of "T: The New York Times Style Magazine," limited all but one of his account manager hires to young white men, who he referred to as his "handsome men." Monaghan "took his cues from Ms. Levien," the complaint states.
Thompson arrived at the Times amidst accusations of sexism and ageism during his tenure at the BBC, Grant and Walker allege. Their complaint includes a quote from a BBC reporter describing the environment during Thompson's tenure.
"There has long been a black joke at the BBC, that when a woman's age exceeds her bra size, she is finished," the reporter, Selina Scott, wrote.
Thompson was also accused of attempting to cover up an investigative journalist's feature exposing British TV personality Jimmy Savile as a serial pedophile, according to the lawsuit.
Grant and Walker claim that Thompson's salary has doubled to nearly $8.7 million and Levien received a promotion and compensation package of $1.8 million.
Eileen Murphy, vice president of corporate communications at the New York Times, said in an email that Grant and Walker's lawsuit is entirely without merit and "contains a series of recycled, scurrilous and unjustified attacks on both Mark Thompson and Meredith Levien. It also completely distorts the realities of the work environment at the New York Times."
When reached for comment, Grant and Walker's attorney Douglas Wigdor opted to let the 61-page complaint speak for itself, saying that his firm "will utilize all of our resources in holding the Times, Mr. Thompson and Ms. Levien responsible for their unlawful behavior which is evidenced by both prior conduct and actions."