The Mirror

EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit Accuses New York Times Of Racial Purge

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
Font Size:

The New York Times was just socked with an ugly discrimination lawsuit that sounds eerily similar to a federal complaint that the Washington Post has been furiously fighting for two years (with WaPo media blogger Erik Wemple ignoring it almost as long).

What is up with these liberal broadsheets? Don’t they understand the glories of diversity? Aren’t they supposed to be the savior of blacks and minorities all across the country?

Worse yet, the lawsuit claims that the NYT was guilty of its own little war on women — or at least one woman.

Tracy Quitasol, a 51-year-old Asian-American, alleges the NYT advertising department fired her shortly after she complained about repeated sexist abuse by her male subordinate.  She says her dismissal was also part of a larger purge by her boss of older employees of color in 2013 and 2014.

Virtually everyone ousted was replaced by younger whites under 40, says the lawsuit, filed June 23, 2015 in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. It charges illegal discrimination based on race, age and gender, plus unlawful retaliation.

Quitasol worked at the Times for nine years with “uniformly excellent” reviews and was executive director of Product Marketing and Ad Platform Innovation, the lawsuit says. She headed the paper’s well-regarded “Idea Lab,” which is a schmaltzy name for the division that tries to create new opportunities for digital revenue.

So everything was peachy keen until August 2013, when Meredith Kopit Levien became executive vice president for advertising. Levien wanted to shake things up, it appears.

At “two off site meetings attended by all the advertising vice presidents,” HR officials and Quitasol in September 2013, Levien made clear that she would evaluate employees on whether they were “fresh to their career” and “whether they have a family, what’s their situation.”

Talk about dog whistles!

During the meetings photographs of each staff member were shown on a screen and Levien repeatedly said “we want people to look like the people we are selling to” and asked questions clearly intended to determine their “age, marital status and whether they had a family.”

With the deck stacked by Levien’s “improper questions,” all of the 30 employees ultimately targeted for ouster at the meetings because of supposedly “poor performance” were over 40, some above 50, the lawsuit claims. Virtually all were minorities.

Poor performance reviews gave the Times leverage to force the employees to take buyout packages. Still, Quitasol was herself spared the axe — but soon had other problems.

Shortly after the managerial powwows, a “junior technical programmer” on her team named Fergal Carr allegedly started treating Quisatol in a “hostile” and “insolent” manner. Carr ignored her emails, requests and directions.

In order to get anything accomplished, Quistatol was often forced to use male supervisors and account managers as conduits for her instructions to Carr.

Quisatol repeatedly complained to HR and Levien about Carr, saying his insubordination was damaging client relationships. They ignored her.

Perhaps fearing dismissal, Quitasol also told HR that Levien was “actively and consciously discriminating against the oldest members, the minority members, and those members of her groups with families by singling them out for negative reviews, performance plans, packages and termination.”

That didn’t go over very well. While accusing everyone else of racism and sexism is a great career move for Times editors and reporters, the Grey Lady casts a jaundiced eye at employees who level such charges at her, if the lawsuit is accurate.

Quitasol was fired on Jan. 24, 2014 “in retaliation for [her] repeated complaints to HR and Levien, as well as arising out of Levien’s discrimination on the basis of age and ethnicity and her overt condoning of Carr and others’ discrimination on the basis of gender.”

The Times claimed she was cut loose solely for inadequate “leadership and ability to communicate.”

But Capital New York reported Quitasol’s involuntary exit one week later, suggesting it seemed rather peculiar given her stellar work history.

NEXT PAGE: Possibly A Big Embarrassment For The Times

The lawsuit has not been covered elsewhere, but it could prove a big embarrassment for the NYT, given the heavy hitters involved.

About two months before Quitasol sued, Levien, reportedly a big favorite of deceased NYT columnist David Carr, was promoted to chief revenue officer.

So is firing older minorities and ignoring complaints about sexist behavior a good career move at the Times? Or are all the allegations unfounded?

Sounds like a great lawsuit for Erik Wemple’s “reported” media blog to sort through. But maybe he will ignore this one also.

Fergal Carr, no relation to David, told The Mirror that the allegations about his boorish behavior “were news to me” and he was “not at all worried about them.”

NYT spokesandroid Eileen Murphy and executive editor Dean Baquet did not reply to emails. The Times has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Reached on the phone by a reporter who identified himself with enough autobiographical detail for a Wikipedia entry, Quitasol said, “I don’t know who you are and I have no comment.”