Amy Cooper, “Central Park Karen,” loses lawsuit claiming she was unfairly fired

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Amy Cooper, the white woman who became known as “Central Park Karen” after calling 911 to claim a black bird watcher 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 on Wednesday dismissed Cooper’s claims that employer Franklin Templeton wrongfully fired and defamed her. The investment company dismissed Cooper in May 2020, shortly after the highly publicized Central Park incident. The company tweeted about her termination on May 26, 2020, saying “We do not tolerate racism of any kind.”

In May 2021, Cooper sued Franklin Templeton, who alleges both racial and gender discrimination in his termination.

The judge rejected those claims in a 17-page ruling on Wednesday. In the lawsuit, Cooper had claimed that Franklin Templeton had treated her differently than three male employees who had committed offenses ranging from insider trading to domestic violence. But Abrams believed the cases were not similar enough to prove bias, in part given that Cooper himself described his own incident as “international news as a racial flashpoint.”

Cooper “cannot plausibly argue that she was subjected to a ‘company-wide double standard’ simply by identifying three male comparators who engaged in a — different — type of misconduct but were not similarly fired,” Abrams wrote.

Cooper’s attorneys did not return requests for comment.

In her lawsuit, Cooper said she had been “an exceptional employee” at the company, where she worked from 2015 until her termination in 2020. The filing said she had earned high-performance bonuses in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Cooper stated that her firing had resulted in “substantial loss of earnings and benefits.” Her claim argued that Franklin Templeton should provide her with “back pay and bonus, loss of unearned funds and other benefits, advances or reinstatement, emotional distress damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and interest and punitive damages in an amount to be determined per attempt.”

Did not meet the threshold for defamation

Abrams said that Franklin Templeton’s statements about Cooper, such as its tweet that “we do not condone racism,” did not meet the threshold for defamation, in part because those comments did not imply that they knew anything more than was already publicly available about the meeting.

“The incident received heightened media and public attention, particularly because it occurred ‘amidst a national reckoning on systemic racism,'” the judge wrote, noting that Cooper’s incident occurred on the same day as George Floyd’s murder 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 public knowledge when [Franklin Templeton’s] Tweet on May 26 was sent.”

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 responded appropriately.”

Call 911

The incident was sparked by Cooper calling the police after a black bird watcher in Central Park, Christian Cooper (who is no relation to Amy Cooper), asked her to lead her dog in an area of ​​the park where cord tying is required.

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 captured the verbal altercation on video, which went viral and became part of the national discussion about race during the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by Floyd’s murder.

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