Amy Cooper, white woman who called 911 on Black bird-watcher, loses lawsuit over termination
Amy Cooper, a white woman who was fired after she called 911 on a Black bird-watcher in New York City's Central Park claiming that he threatened and tried to attack her, lost a discrimination lawsuit against her former employer.
U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams determined Cooper’s claims against investment firm Franklin Templeton were unsubstantial. In a 17-page ruling Wednesday, Abrams dismissed Cooper’s allegations of discrimination on the basis of race and sex, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
“We are pleased that the court has dismissed the lawsuit. We continue to believe the company responded appropriately,” Franklin Templeton told USA TODAY.
In May 2021, Cooper sued Franklin Templeton, accusing the firm of illegally firing her without an internal investigation and defaming her on social media.
Abrams ruled that the act of watching a video of the incident and discussing Cooper’s conduct would “meet a reasonable interpretation of ‘internal review’” and that “an accusation of bigotry is a protected statement of opinion, rather than a defamatory statement of fact capable of being proven true or false.”
The firm announced Cooper’s termination on Twitter, saying “We do not tolerate racism of any kind,” shortly after a video of Cooper in May 2020 went viral.
In the video, Cooper is walking her dog in the Ramble, a section of Central Park that requires dogs to be leashed, when Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher who is not related to Amy Cooper, asks her to leash her pet.
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, began filming Amy Cooper's actions.
The video posted to social media garnered millions of views that day. The incident occurred the same day George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who knelt on his neck and was convicted of murder last year.
The charges were dropped against Amy Cooper last year after she completed a psycho-education and therapy program that focused on racial equity.
In her lawsuit, filed in federal court, Amy Cooper said Franklin Templeton's actions allowed for her to be "characterized as a privileged white female ‘Karen' caught on video verbally abusing an African American male with no possible reason other than the color of his skin." The lawsuit said the woman was motivated primarily by fear during the exchange, not by race.
Amy Cooper also claimed that the firm favored three male employees who had engaged in misconduct, including insider trading and domestic violence, and that her termination was unjust. But Abrams ruled that the cases weren’t similar and could not prove bias.
“Plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the adequacy of Defendants’ investigation – even if objectively warranted – is insufficient to support an inference of discrimination,” Abrams wrote in the opinion.
An attorney for Cooper did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY