The New York Post suffered a legal setback on Monday as a U.S. District Court judge denied its motion to dismiss a lawsuit from a former employee alleging an unlawful firing from, and embarrassing harassment in, the paper's newsroom.
In Manhattan, Judge Barbara Jones allowed onetime Post editor Sandra Guzman's suit against her former employee to go forward, noting that Guzman had raised sufficient "factual allegations" that her termination from the paper was retaliatory.
At this stage in the litigation, the Court finds that Plaintiff's factual allegations sufficiently "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Plaintiffs have sufficiently put Defendants on notice of the retaliation claims against it by alleging that Plaintiffs' complaints were about the working climate generally at the Post, rather than solely about the content published by the paper.
Guzman filed her suit in December, alleging that she had been fired partly for speaking out against the paper's decision to run a cartoon depicting the author of the president's stimulus as a chimpanzee who had been shot dead.
In her complaint, Guzman leveled several headline-grabbing charges about the Post's working environment. Editor-in-Chief Col Allen was painted as sexist and domineering -- allegedly showing a picture of a "naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis." Guzman said she was subjected to misogynistic taunts, including being called "Cha Cha #1." With respect to the paper's editorial slants, not especially pertinent to her lawsuit, Guzman said the Post's D.C. bureau chief stated that the publication's goal was to "destroy Barack Obama."
The Post had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that First Amendment protections allow it to publish what it wants and that Guzman had never raised concerns about a hostile work environment during her time at the publication.
Jones said the first argument was valid, but ruled that Guzman had presented a strong enough case regarding the Post's work environment to allow her suit to proceed.
Mindful of the First Amendment protections enjoyed by newspaper organizations, the Court notes that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that she objected not just to the paper's content but to the general work environment at the Post and the way the editorial staff dealt with the publication of the content at issue.
A spokesperson for the Post did not immediately return a request for comment. Kenneth Thompson, a lawyer for Guzman, said his client "looks forward to going to trial."
Read Judge Jones' ruling here: