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White Woman Fired For Calling Police on Black Birdwatcher Loses Employment Case

On May 25, 2020, Amy Cooper interacted with Christian Cooper (no relation), a Black male, while walking her dog in Central Park. At the time, she worked for Franklin Templeton in New York. Christian Cooper was birdwatching and asked Amy Cooper to leash her dog. A video of their interaction was posted on social media and quickly became well-known across the country. In the video, Amy Cooper tells Christian Cooper to stop videotaping her, and Christian Cooper asks her not to come closer to him. She then calls 911 and reports Christian Cooper. In the video, she says an African-American man is threatening her and tells 911 to send the police immediately. After watching the video, individuals across social media openly referred to Amy Cooper as a "privileged white female." Following the video's posting, Franklin Templeton placed her on leave and terminated her employment the next day. The company stated, "We do not tolerate racism of any kind." In a later interview, the company said they had "zero tolerance for racism." Amy Cooper sued the company, alleging the company fired her because of her race and gender.

A federal district court dismissed her claims against Franklin Templeton. Cooper argued Franklin Templeton's public statements created an inference of discriminatory motivation. According to Cooper, the company's public statements against racism leading to Cooper's termination created an inference of discrimination. The court noted that none of the company's statements mentioned her race. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes New York, previously held "[racism] is not a race, and discrimination on the basis of alleged racism is not the same as discrimination on the basis of race."

Amy Cooper also argued that three of her male comparators received more favorable treatment after similar conduct. However, the district court said Amy Cooper failed to convincingly allege these comparators were "similarly situated in all material respects." The material respects include position, seniority, job responsibilities, business unit, performance, length of experience, or even geography. Two of the purported comparators were executive level in other locations. The third individual was on the board of directors and, thus, not an employee. In addition, the type of conduct allegedly committed by these individuals, such as insider trading and plagiarism, was too different. None of the individuals became "international news as a racial flashpoint." Lastly, Amy Cooper's challenge to the adequacy of the company's investigation, even if valid, was "insufficient to support an inference of discrimination."