Gannett Accused of Discriminating Against White Employees With Racial Quotas

Gannett Accused of Discriminating Against White Employees With Racial Quotas
The corporate flags for the Gannett Co. and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, fly outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Va., on July 23, 2013. (Larry Downing/Reuters)
Ryan Morgan

A group of five current and former employees are suing Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the United States, alleging the media company racially discriminated against them.

The lawsuit (pdf) alleges that Gannett, which owns the national publication USA Today and more than two dozen local publications throughout the country, implemented a policy in 2020 that sought to have the demographics of the company’s various newsrooms reflect the racial and ethnic demographics of the communities they cover. The plaintiffs allege this policy, which the lawsuit dubs a “Reverse Race Discrimination Policy,” amounted to a racial quota system that saw existing white employees forced out of their positions and saw the company exclude white males in future hiring decisions.

The five plaintiffs have submitted a civil complaint, seeking a class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other individuals who may have been impacted by Gannett’s hiring policies.

According to the complaint, lead plaintiff Steven Bradley had for 21 years worked for one of the Gannett publications—the Rochester, New York-based Democrat and Chronicle—when the company began to implement its new newsroom demographics policy. Mr. Bradley was allegedly forced out of his position based solely on race as the demographic policy went through.

“There can be no question that Mr. Bradley’s termination was directly based on his race and resulted from the Reverse Race Discrimination Policy. For example, the Democrat and Chronicle’s executive editor commented that he decided to terminate Mr. Bradley’s employment rather than another worker, Mark Liu, because Mr. Liu was Asian and Mr. Bradley was White,” the complaint states.

At the same time Mr. Bradley was being forced out of his position of two decades, another “non-minority” member of the Democrat and Chronicle’s sports team, who had worked with the team for about 37 years, was also reportedly terminated, while no non-minority members of the sports writing staff were forced out during this same time period.

After being forced out of the Democrat and Chronicle, Mr. Bradley allegedly applied to work at another Gannett news division in New York, completing three interviews for the position by the time he was informed in February of 2021 that he was one of two contenders for the role. Mr. Bradley allegedly learned that the other top contender for the position was also a white male, but by mid-March, the publication instead hired a black female for the role who had fewer qualifications.

Elsewhere, the lawsuit alleged the Gannett employee overseeing talent recruitment and retention at the time the demographic policy began informed Gannett managers that no more straight white males should be hired going forward.

Another plaintiff, Barbara Augsdorfer, had reportedly been working for Gannett’s Savannah Morning News for about six months when, in June of 2020, the publication hired a black woman, Rana L. Cash, as its new executive editor. Ms. Cash allegedly sought “new and creative ways” to change the paper’s demographics.

Mrs. Augsdorfer had been covering the paper’s education beat and, according to the lawsuit, had been performing well before she was “surprisingly transferred from covering education and nonprofits to covering two local counties, Bryan County and Effingham County.” Mrs. Augsdorfer had expressed a desire to continue covering education, but was told that her new assignment was a necessity. A black person was then hired to fill the education beat, and Mrs. Augsdorfer turned over her contacts from her time on that beat, as instructed by her employers. Despite sharing the contacts from her previous beat, Mrs. Augsdorfer was allegedly denied access to the contacts for her new beat.

Soon after she was relocated to her new beat, Mrs. Augsdorfer was allegedly informed for the first time in her tenure with the newspaper that her performance was not up to par. She was subsequently placed on a performance plan and then, by November 2021, she was finally terminated from the paper. The lawsuit alleges that in the time since her termination, the Savannah Morning News still has yet to replace her on the Bryan County and Effingham County beats; the counties she was informed were so important as to necessitate her transfer from the education beat.

The lawsuit makes note of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvardwhich saw the court strike down race-based affirmative action admissions policies at colleges and universities.

The lawsuit requests a court order to force Gannett to end its “Reverse Race Discrimination Policy,” compensate impacted employees for lost wages and benefits, award the plaintiffs for punitive and compensatory damages, and cover the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees.

“Gannett always seeks to recruit and retain the most qualified individuals for all roles within the company,” Gannett’s chief legal counsel Polly Grunfeld Sack said in an emailed statement. “We will vigorously defend our practice of ensuring equal opportunities for all our valued employees against this meritless lawsuit.”

Gannett did not respond to additional questions about the allegations in the lawsuit.

Ryan Morgan is a news writer for NTD, The Epoch Times’ sister media publication. He primarily focuses on military and world affairs but also frequently covers U.S. domestic political events.
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