AP’s Race and Ethnicity Editor Sues News Outlet for Alleged Discrimination

Zoe Tillman, National Law Journal, May 2, 2016

Sonya Ross, the race and ethnicity editor at the Associated Press, filed a discrimination lawsuit Monday that accuses the news organization of marginalizing her and denying her opportunities for promotion because of her race, age and gender.

Ross, a former White House reporter, claimed the AP retaliated against her after she complained about disparate treatment. According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found the AP tolerated a workplace climate of hostility towards African American employees.

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According to the complaint, the trouble began in 2008, when the former Washington bureau chief, a woman, was replaced by a white man, whose name is not included in the complaint. He is referred to as “Employee A.” Ross claimed the new supervisor created a hostile and abusive work environment, singling her out for criticism, speaking to her harshly in front of another reporter, and undermining her efforts at advancement.

Ross said that when she became Race and Ethnicity Editor in 2010, the move was announced as a promotion, but AP failed to give her the necessary resources to do the job. She said she was promised a “meager” pay raise at her insistence, and did not receive it until she protested three years later.

In 2011, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs began an audit of the AP, according to the lawsuit. Ross said she was urged not to discuss her discrimination complaints, but did so. In the years that followed, Ross said that AP retaliated by cutting her out of editing opportunities, denying her resources and diluting her authority as an editor. In February 2016, according to the lawsuit, the Labor Department’s compliance office concluded its investigation with a finding of workplace hostility.

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