Amy Cooper, the white woman who became known asafter calling 911 to claim that a black birder had threatened her, she lost a lawsuit alleging her former employer engaged in racist and sexist behavior when it fired her after the incident.
U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams Wednesday dismissed Cooper’s claims that employer Franklin Templeton had unfairly fired and defamed her. The investment firmin May 2020, shortly after the much-discussed Central Park incident. The company tweeted about its termination on May 26, 2020, saying, “We do not tolerate racism of any kind.”
In May 2021, CooperFranklin Templeton, who argued both racial and gender discrimination at her termination.
The judge rejected those claims in a 17-page ruling on Wednesday. In the lawsuit, Cooper had alleged that Franklin Templeton had treated her differently than three male employees who had engaged in misconduct ranging from insider trading to domestic violence. But Abrams ruled the cases were not comparable enough to prove bias, in part given that Cooper herself described her own incident as “international news like a racial flame”.
Cooper “cannot argue that she was subjected to a ‘company-wide double standard’ by identifying only three male comparators who were guilty of some – different – form of misconduct, but were not fired in the same way,” Abrams wrote.
Cooper’s attorneys have not returned requests for comment.
In her lawsuit, Cooper said she had been “an exceptional employee” at the company, where she worked from 2015 until her resignation in 2020. The document said she had earned high-performer bonuses in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Cooper stated that her resignation had resulted in “significant loss of income and benefits.” Her claim argued that Franklin Templeton would have to provide her with “back wages and bonuses, loss of uncommitted funds and other benefits, prepayment or reinstatement, emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and costs and interest and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by process.”
Did not meet the threshold for defamation
Abrams said Franklin Templeton’s statements about Cooper, such as the tweet that “we don’t tolerate racism,” fell short of the threshold for defamation, in part because those comments didn’t imply that they knew anything more than was already available to the public about the meeting.
“The incident gained more media and public attention, especially as it took place ‘in the midst of a national reckoning over systemic racism,'” the judge wrote, noting that Cooper’s incident occurred on the same day as the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis.
She added: “The content of the viral video, as well as the dialogue surrounding it, both in the media and on social media, was already widely known when [Franklin Templeton’s] A tweet dated May 26 was posted.”
In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, Franklin Templeton said, “We are pleased that the court dismissed the lawsuit. We continue to believe that the company has responded appropriately.”
The incident was sparked by Cooper calling the police after a Central Park black birdwatcher, Christian Cooper (who is unrelated to Amy Cooper), asked her to leash her dog in an area of the park that requires a leash.
In response, she called 911 and repeatedly identified Christian Cooper by his race, demanding that the dispatcher “send the police immediately” and falsely accusing him of threatening her life. Christian Cooper videotaped the verbal altercation, which went viral and became part of the national discussion about race during the Black Live Matter movement sparked by Floyd’s murder.