Amy Cooper, a white woman who was fired from her job after calling 911 with a black birdwatcher in Central Park claiming he threatened and attempted to assault her, lost a lawsuit against her former employer for discrimination.
U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams on Wednesday dismissed Cooper’s claims against investment firm Franklin Templeton. In a 17-page statement, Abrams dismissed Cooper’s allegations of race and gender discrimination, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
“We are pleased that the court dismissed the lawsuit. We continue to believe that the company has responded appropriately,” Franklin Templeton told USA TODAY.
In May 2021, Cooper sued Franklin Templeton, alleging that the company illegally fired her without conducting an internal investigation and made defamatory statements against her on social media.
Abrams ruled that the act of viewing a video of the incident and discussing Cooper’s conduct “complies with a reasonable interpretation of ‘internal judgment'” and that “an allegation of bigotry is a protected opinion, rather than a defamatory statement of fact capable of being proven true or false.”
The company announced Cooper’s termination on Twitter, saying, “We will not tolerate racism of any kind,” shortly after a video of Cooper went viral in May 2020.
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In the video, Cooper was walking her dog in the Ramble, a dog-leash area of Central Park, when Christian Cooper, a black birdwatcher not related to Amy Cooper, asked her to leash her pet.
Cooper reports a 911 call claiming that a man named Christian Cooper — who is not related to her — had threatened her life. The incident took place in the Ramble, a wooded area of Central Park where dogs are required to be on a lead. The bird-watching man asked Cooper to leash her dog in the park.
As their exchange escalated on Memorial Day 2020, Amy Cooper called 911 and reported “an African-American man…threatening myself and my dog.” Christian Cooper, meanwhile, started filming Amy Cooper’s actions.
The video posted to social media was viewed millions of times that day. The incident happened the same day George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis by Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who knelt on his neck and was convicted of murder last month.
The charges against Amy Cooper were dropped last year after she completed a psychoeducation and therapy program focused on racial equality.
In her lawsuit, filed in federal court, Amy Cooper alleges Franklin Templeton’s actions allowed her to be “characterized as a privileged white woman ‘Karen’ who was caught on video verbally abusing an African-American man without any other reason than the color of his skin.” The lawsuit said the woman was motivated primarily by fear during the exchange, not race.
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Amy Cooper also claimed that the company favored three male employees who had engaged in misconduct, including insider trading and domestic violence, and that her dismissal was unfair. But Abrams ruled that the cases were not comparable and could not prove bias.
“The plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the adequacy of the defendants’ investigation — even if objectively justified — is insufficient to substantiate an inference of discrimination,” Abrams wrote in the opinion.
A lawyer for Cooper did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment Thursday.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY