Following the George Floyd protests in 2020, the country’s largest newspaper publisher, Gannett, launched an initiative to diversify both its workforce and its news coverage.
Gannett announced the broad initiative to make its workforce as diverse as the country by 2025. Further, they pledged to expand the number of journalists focusing on issues of race and identity, social justice and equality.
On Friday, five former employees , who are White, filed a class action lawsuit in Virginia alleging that the company’s efforts to diversify discriminated against them because of their race. The lawsuit also alleges that executive bonuses and promotions were tied to meeting the goals outlined in its policy.
The suit claims that employees were fired, not promoted or given raises, in order to accommodate less-qualified women and minorities and in doing so, Gannett violated a federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in contracts.
The lawsuit seeks lost pay and benefits and as well as the elimination of the 2020 policy.
Newsmax reports “Plaintiff Steven Bradley says he was fired from a management job at the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, N.Y., and later did not get another job with Gannett because he is white.”
“Plaintiff Logan Barry says before Gannett acquired the Progress-Index paper in Peterburg, Va., in 2019, he was on track for a promotion to an executive leadership position, but that the job ultimately went to a less-qualified Black woman.”
“Gannett executed their reverse race discrimination policy with a callous indifference towards civil rights laws or the welfare of the workers, and prospective workers, whose lives would be upended by it,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit.
Polly Grunfeld Sack, Virginia-based Gannett’s chief legal counsel, said the company always seeks to recruit and retain the most qualified workers.
“We will vigorously defend our practice of ensuring equal opportunities for all our valued employees against this meritless lawsuit,” Sack said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes amid growing backlash to increasingly prevalent corporate diversity policies. Unlike other pending cases brought by conservative groups, the claims against Gannett were filed directly by the company’s employees.
The action against Gannett is the first DEI-related lawsuit to be brought directly against a company by employees. Prior cases have been largely backed by conservative organizations.