Court dismisses Washington Post journalist’s lawsuit against the paper and its former editor

The reporter, Felicia Sonmez, previously said she was banned from covering stories of sexual misconduct because she openly said she was a survivor of sexual assault herself.

Sonmez had argued that the ban, which was eventually lifted after criticizing the newspaper both publicly and privately, had prevented her from covering some of the most important stories in politics, such as the allegations against the judge of Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process, which he denied.

The ban was instituted during the tenure of former editor Marty Baron, who retired from the paper last February.

Sonmez’s attorney said in the lawsuit that she suffered “economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress, and denial of equal employment opportunity rights” to following the ban.

She filed the lawsuit in July and, in addition to The Post, named as defendants Baron; Managing Editor Cameron Barr; Managing Editor Tracy Grant; national editor Steven Ginsberg; Associate National Editor Lori Montgomery; and senior political editor Peter Wallsten.

But on Thursday, her case was dismissed with prejudice — meaning it cannot be refiled — by Judge Anthony C. Epstein of the Superior Court for the Civil Division of the District of Columbia. Epstein ruled that Sonmez did not make an actionable claim.

“The facts alleged by Ms. Sonmez do not support a plausible conclusion that the Post discriminated against her or created a hostile work environment, in whole or in part because she is the victim of a sexual assault or a woman,” Epstein wrote in his opinion. .

Epstein clarified, writing, “The Post attributed all of the employment actions Ms. Sonmez complains about to her public statements, not her victim status or gender. Her stated reason – to avoid the appearance or perception of bias by its journalists – – is a basis for bans that do not imply the [DC Human Rights Act].

Epstein wrote that “a news publication has a constitutionally protected right to adopt and enforce policies designed to protect public confidence in its impartiality and objectivity.”

Epstein also dismissed Sonmez’s allegations of retaliation and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Sundeep Hora, a lawyer for Sonmez, told CNN: “We are still analyzing the opinion, but from what I have read so far, we strongly disagree with the judge’s reasoning. . And we plan to appeal.”

“I don’t think the judge understood correctly,” he added. “But we respect his decision.”

A spokesperson for The Post declined to comment.

Baron told CNN, “I am grateful for a legal process that allowed for an objective assessment of the claims in this lawsuit.”


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