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Washington Post Reporter’s Discrimination Lawsuit Against Paper, Former Top Editor Marty Baron Dismissed

Reporter Felicia Sonmez sued last July claiming she was banned from covering stories involving sexual assault

A judge on Thursday dismissed a discrimination lawsuit filed by a Washington Post politics reporter against her own employer and its former executive editor, Marty Baron.

Last July, reporter Felicia Sonmez sued for discrimination, claiming that she was banned from covering stories involving sexual assault after she revealed that she herself is a sexual assault survivor.

A judge in Washington, D.C. ruled Thursday that Sonmez failed to “state a plausible claim that the Post took adverse employment actions, or created a hostile work environment, because of her sex or status as a victim of sexual assault,” and further that she failed to make a plausible claim of “negligent infliction of emotional distress.”

The judge additionally dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that the charges can’t be refiled. And the judge argued that not only did Sonmez keep her job, they had not stated that she had been given “second-rate stories” as a result of the alleged ban.

“Nothing in the complaint suggests that the Post would, for example, not suspend a reporter who made a public statement about the personal impact of the recent murder of a relative from covering stories about violent crime,” the ruling reads. “Unless the newspaper’s decision is infected by a discriminatory intent against a member of a protected class, judges and juries are not free to second-guess a newspaper’s judgment about the assignment of reporters, just as they are not free to second-guess an employer’s business judgment.”

Sonmez through Twitter shared a statement from her lawyer Sundeep Hora saying, “We’re disappointed in the ruling and we strongly disagree with the ruling,” and that they plan to appeal.

A representative for The Washington Post had no comment. Baron told The New York Times in an email that “I am grateful for a legal process that allowed the claims in this lawsuit to be evaluated objectively.”

Sonmez, who joined The Washington Post as a national political reporter in 2018, claimed that as a result of the ban, she was unable to write #MeToo coverage or cover allegations brought against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Last March, however, she tweeted the ban was lifted after reporters rallied around her and after Baron retired last February.

“I’m not planning on going anywhere. The Washington Post needs to do better. I just want to do my job,” Sonmez tweeted the day before saying the ban was lifted, tagging editors Steven Ginsberg, Cameron Barr, Lori Montgomery and Peter Wallsten. Ginsberg, Barr and Montgomery were named in the suit suit, as was managing editor Tracy Grant.

Sonmez previously told CNN that “survivors of trauma, including sexual assault, deserve the full support of their newsrooms” and that “They should never have to fear that they will be punished, silenced or barred from doing their jobs because of what was done to them.”

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