The New York Times has discriminated against employees who are older, black, or women since the appointment of CEO Mark Thompson in 2012, a new lawsuit alleges.
Advertising staff members Ernestine Grant and Marjorie Walker filed the federal suit Thursday against Thompson, the Times, and executive vice president and chief revenue officer Meredith Levien, citing their own experiences as well as those of employees in a similar position. They are seeking class action status, undetermined monetary damages, and that a judge put a stop to discriminatory practices, according to the suit.
In a statement, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy described the lawsuit as unjustified and recycled attacks on Thompson and Levien.
"It also completely distorts the realities of the work environment at The New York Times," she said. "We strongly disagree with any claim that The Times, Mr. Thompson or Ms. Levien have discriminated against any individual or group of employees. The suit is entirely without merit and we intend to fight it vigorously in court."
According to Grant and Walker's complaint, staff at the Times have for years become younger and whiter, particularly in the advertising division. Younger white employees were paid more, given perks and access to higher-level clients, they said, while older, black, and women employees were paid less, passed over for promotions, and pushed toward buyouts.
In the complaint, Levien is accused of critiquing advertising staff based on their age, marital status, and other characteristics in a presentation. She used photos of older Times employees of color, the suit said, adding "this isn't what our sales team should look like."
Grant and Walker allege that employees who complained were retaliated against.
The complaint also alleges that the Times has a pattern of discrimination in its newsroom as well as in advertising. Company leaders ignored Thompson's "significant problems with gender and age discrimination" when it hired him, the complaint said. The suit also questions his role in the firing of executive editor Jill Abramson.
"Following his appointment as CEO, Mr. Thompson deliberate marginalized the most powerful women in the Company, who he could not control," the complaint says.
Grant and Walker also cite an allleged gender gap within the paper's bylines and sources.
"Not only does the Times have an ideal customer (young, white, wealthy), but also an ideal staffer (young, white, unencumbered with a family) to draw that purported ideal customer," the complaint said.
Read the complaint here.
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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