By The Mirror Contributor EVAN GAHR
The Washington Post is feverishly fighting a discrimination lawsuit that claims it purged dozens of older blacks from its ranks, leaving management on the business side of the paper virtually all-white.
In sworn affidavits to support plaintiff David DeJesus, an advertising account manager who has worked there for the past 22 years, three black ex-Posties claim they were pushed out of the paper as it schemed to oust older mostly black workers to save money. They describe a poisonous atmosphere at the paper — including racist jokes, favoritism toward whites and even segregated seating.
The affidavits “attest to the Post‘s discriminatory patterns and practice, mistreating and forcing out African American and older employees in a systematic effort to replace them with young, less experienced white individuals at cheaper wages,” contend lawyers for DeJesus.
But the paper, whose news pages and opinion section are awash with articles that call tea party activists racist, refuses to cover the lawsuit. WaPo lambasts everyone from Saturday Night Live to Silicon Valley for employing insufficient numbers of blacks, but spokespeople declined to provide stats about its own workforce “diversity.”
“We don’t release numbers like that,” says WaPo communications director Kristine Coratti, herself accused in court papers of putting the squeeze on an older black employee.
Raised by a single mother in the notorious Chicago public housing projects, DeJesus (pictured here) told The Daily Caller that steering clear of criminals and assorted hooligans in his youth proved excellent preparation for battling WaPo.
“My life experiences growing up on Chicago’s South Side, dodging gangs and bad people, my mom being on welfare while she put us through Catholic school to get a ‘good education’ so we could make something of ourselves, and countless more experiences have made me well prepared for what I’m dealing with now,” he said.
DeJesus, a black evangelical Christian, has won “numerous significant awards for his sales performance, achievements and for meeting and/or exceeding sales quotas,” the lawsuit says.
But in 2011, a white supervisor named Noelle Wainwright abruptly fired him for alleged insubordination. Claiming that DeJesus had provided a WaPo advertising study to a client without her permission, Wainwright stormed into DeJesus’s cubicle and said he was “shoveling a pile of sh*t at her feet,” the suit says.
Shocked by his dismissal, DeJesus penned a heartfelt email to then-WaPo company chairman Don Graham, who refused to intervene even though he knew DeJesus personally.
Next, DeJesus filed a grievance with the Newspaper Guild union.
The arbitrator ruled on Feb. 1, 2013 that DeJesus was not guilty of insubordination, that WaPo had no legitimate reason to fire him and that the paper violated its own requirement for “progressive discipline” of employees before dismissal.
He was reinstated to his job. But when DeJesus reported for work the next month, he was forced to wait in the lobby for 30 minutes like a food delivery person before finally being allowed upstairs. He was also allegedly shunted off to the least desirable accounts.
In July of 2013, DeJesus, now 62, sued WaPo in Washington, D.C. federal district court for race and age discrimination, seeking back pay and punitive damages. Federal law prohibits age discrimination against anyone over 40.
Next, Graham asked his lawyer to try to settle the case.
But after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper from the Grahams, settlement talks with a federal magistrate in November, 2013 faltered. Depositions and discovery followed. After more than a year of legal wrangling, WaPo late last year filed a motion for summary judgment in its favor.
WaPo and DeJesus await a judge’s ruling on the Post‘s motions for summary judgment and exclusion of one of the affidavits.
WaPo declined to formally comment for this story despite requests placed to Publisher Fred Ryan, who did not respond to inquiries.
Executive Editor Marty Baron told this reporter in October 2013 not to ask him anymore questions about this. A Bezos’ spokesperson also did not return a request for comment.
When I tried to get former WaPo publisher Katharine Weymouth on the horn, the operator said there was no listing for her. Which would make a ton of sense because she no longer worked there. Still, I got the automated system and left a message on her voicemail.