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The woman who called 911 on a Black bird watcher wasn't wrongfully fired, judge rules

Video of Amy Cooper calling the police Monday on a man has gone viral on social media. The man says he asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park.
Christian Cooper via Facebook/Screenshot by NPR
Video of Amy Cooper calling the police Monday on a man has gone viral on social media. The man says he asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park.

Amy Cooper, the white woman who received widespread backlash in 2020 for calling the police on a Black man bird-watching in New York's Central Park, has lost her lawsuit against the employer that fired her following the incident.

In May 2021, Cooper filed a suit against her former employer, investment firm Franklin Templeton, where she worked as a portfolio manager.

"Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton," the company said.

She was fired the day after she called the police on Christian Cooper (they are not related) after he asked her to put her dog on a leash, in a part of the park where dogs are required to be leashed.

In her lawsuit, Amy Cooper alleges she was fired on basis of race and sex, and that Franklin Templeton defamed her and caused her emotional distress.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams dismissed Cooper's claims of racial discrimination, reasoning that Franklin Templeton never referenced her race in any of their statements, but made "condemnations of racism."

Amy Cooper additionally claimed she was being held to a double standard at her job due to her sex, after three male staffers were not fired following allegations of sexual harassment and insider trading, as well as a domestic violence conviction.

But Abrams ruled Cooper and her coworkers' circumstances, such as position, experience and performance, would have to be similar for her assertions of sex discrimination to be valid.

"The misconduct that Plaintiff's proposed comparators allegedly engaged in — which runs the gamut from plagiarism to insider trading to a felony conviction — is simply too different in kind to be comparable to her conduct in this case," Abrams said.

Amy Cooper claims the employer did not thoroughly investigate the incident because they failed to review the 911 call she made or community board meeting records of Christian Cooper's alleged previous encounters with dog owners.

But Amy Cooper never alleged the company failed to discuss her behavior with her, and her lawyers admitted Franklin Templeton watched the video, which is enough to constitute an internal review, Abrams said.

"I just have to commend our crisis management team, it was a holiday," Franklin Templeton CEO Jenny Johnson said in a Bloomberg interview. "Everybody got together. We needed to spend time getting the facts. Sometimes videos can get manipulated and so you have to make sure that you've reviewed all the facts. I think the facts were undisputed in this case, and we were able to make a quick decision."

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Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]