Ex-Editor's Bias Suit Against Post Survives

, New York Law Journal

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A civil rights lawsuit in which a former associate editor of the New York Post alleges she was forced out because of her race and gender has survived a defense motion for summary judgment after a federal judge found proof that the newspaper and some of its top employees fostered a racially and sexually hostile workplace.

In a decision Monday, Southern District Judge Lorna Schofield said Sandra Guzman produced sufficient evidence to suggest the Post's assertion that she was fired for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons is a pretext to cover up its racial and gender discrimination.

Schofield granted summary judgment to the paper's corporate parent, News Corp., but is permitting the case against the Post and its editor-in-chief, Col Allan, to proceed.

Schofield's lengthy opinion in Guzman v. News Corporation, 09-cv-09323, resulted from protracted discovery and portrays a newsroom culture polluted with racial and sexual crudity, at least during the six years the plaintiff worked at the Post.

According to the decision, Guzman testified that sexually charged conversations were routine in the newsroom, that one top editor once equated a Latino baseball player to a "criminal" and asked whether he brought a gun or machete to an interview, and that a photography editor described his staff of young, attractive women as his "harem."

She said a manager routinely stared at female employees' breasts and buttocks, looked her "up and down" as though she were naked and licked his lips while leering at her in an overtly sexual manner.

Guzman said a columnist regularly greeted her by singing "I Want to Live in America," from West Side Story, with a Spanish accent. She said the "voracious sexual appetite" and exploits of a former star columnist were described by a top editor at a bar frequented by Post employees.

And she said editorial department employees "widely discussed" a young, female copy assistant who allegedly got a permanent reporting job in exchange for performing oral sex on an editor.

Guzman contends that a racist and sexist atmosphere cultivated by Post managers created a culture that ultimately led to her dismissal in 2009.

Schofield said the evidence Guzman proffered is sufficient to allow her suit against the Post and Allan to proceed. She is represented by Kenneth Thompson of Thompson Wigdor, his partner, Douglas Wigdor, and their senior associate, Lawrence Pearson. Thompson is currently the Democratic candidate for Brooklyn district attorney.

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