Former Democrat and Chronicle sports editor Steven Bradley has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the newspaper, its owner, Gannett Co. Inc., and the Gannett-owned newspaper, the Utica Observer-Dispatch.
Bradley, a white man, claims he was racially discriminated against when he was terminated from his job at the Democrat and Chronicle and, later, not hired for a position at the Observer-Dispatch.
The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Monroe County on Friday is seeking class action status with Bradley serving as the named plaintiff.
The lawsuit claims the defendants “discriminated against non-minority employees on the basis of their race.”
Bradley, a resident of Wayne County, is represented by the law firm of Thomas & Solomon LLP.
Bradley worked at the Democrat & Chronicle from 1999 through May 1, 2020, including as assistant sports editor starting in 2000, deputy sports editor starting in 2006, sports editor starting in 2007, and content strategist starting in 2014, according to the complaint.
While working as the sports editor and content strategist at the newspaper, he had up to 15 employees under his direct supervision, according to the complaint.
“Mr. Bradley was a distinguished employee of Defendants, receiving multiple awards and recognitions for his contributions,” according to the complaint.
Around 2020, Gannett implemented a company-wide policy to achieve inclusion quotas and committed that, by 2025, the employment demographics of all Gannett publications would reflect the racial and ethnic demographics in the community the newsroom covers.
Gannett managers were offered bonuses and promotions incentivizing them to staff newsrooms with employees of racial and ethnic backgrounds at rates comparable to the racial demographics of the communities they serve, according to the suit.
The policy resulted in numerous highly qualified non-minority employees being terminated “or suffering other adverse employment actions based purely on their race,” according to the suit.
“The Gannett employee tasked with overseeing talent recruitment and retention, Hollis Towns, informed Gannett managers that no more straight white males should be hired going forward,” according to the suit.
Bradley occupied one of the positions specifically targeted by Gannett with their reverse race discrimination policy, the lawsuit claims.
“The implementation of this policy resulted in the termination of numerous well qualified employees based purely on their non-minority status, including Mr. Bradley, whose employment was terminated after working for the Democrat and Chronicle for 21 years,” according to the suit.
In January 2021, Bradley applied for the position of executive editor at the Observer-Dispatch. After three interviews, Bradley was told he was one of two finalists. The other was also a white man. But later he was told a new candidate emerged and was selected for the position. That candidate was Sheila Rayam, who is now executive editor of the Buffalo News.
“Ms. Rayam, a Black female, was selected for the position despite not having expressed interest or applying in the first instance, and despite having far less qualifications than Mr. Bradley,” the suit claims.
“Gannett chose not to hire Mr. Bradley on the basis of his race and instead went outside the applicant pool and hand selected a candidate that, irrespective of her qualifications, satisfied the quotas Gannett was seeking to achieve,” the suit claims.
The lawsuit proposes a class of plaintiffs that includes all employees of Gannett who “have been, are being, or will be discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment, including” at any time on or after April 21, 2019.
The suit also proposes a New York subclass of plaintiffs discriminated against on or after April 21, 2020.
Democrat and Chronicle Executive Editor Michael Kilian did not immediately respond to an email message seeking a comment.
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