Five current and former employees at the newspaper giant Gannett filed a lawsuit against the company last week, alleging that its internal policies discriminate against white employees.
The employees claimed they were either fired or passed over for promotions in favor of less-qualified women or people of color in order to comply with company diversity policy.
The policies implemented by the company in 2020 state an intent for Gannett newsrooms to better represent the demographics of the communities they cover by 2025.
“Gannett executed their reverse race discrimination policy with a callous indifference towards civil rights laws or the welfare of the workers, and prospective workers, whose lives would be upended by it,” the lawsuit reads.
Gannett owns hundreds of newspapers of all sizes across the country, including USA Today.
The suit, which plaintiffs seek to make a class action, cites last month’s Supreme Court decision to eliminate race-based college admissions.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s majority opinion that “eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” a remark plaintiffs believe could help their case.
Last month, 13 Republican attorneys general wrote a letter to leaders of major corporations discouraging them from using affirmative action policies in the wake of the court’s decision.
“We urge you to immediately cease any unlawful race-based quotas or preferences your company has adopted for its employment and contracting practices,” they wrote. “If you choose not to do so, know that you will be held accountable — sooner rather than later — for your decision to continue treating people differently because of the color of their skin.
One of the plaintiffs is former Rochester Democrat and Chronicle sports editor Steven Bradley, who said he was fired from his role last year and not considered for any other position in the company because he is white.
Bradley sued Gannett in New York state court, but that case’s resolution is unclear.
The plaintiffs specifically accuse the company of violating federal law through racial discrimination in its hiring. They demand that the company reverse its 2020 policies and pay damages.
Gannett defended the company’s policies in a statement Thursday.
“Gannett always seeks to recruit and retain the most qualified individuals for all roles within the company,” Gannett legal counsel Polly Grunfeld Sack said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend our practice of ensuring equal opportunities for all our valued employees against this meritless lawsuit.”