Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez is suing the paper, former executive editor Marty Baron, and other top newsroom leaders for unlawful discrimination, including allegedly subjecting her to a hostile work environment, after she revealed publicly that she was a victim of sexual assault.
Sonmez, a reporter on the newspaper’s politics breaking-news team, was banned twice from covering #MeToo-related stories, including Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, after she publicly stated in 2018 that she had been assaulted by a Los Angeles Times journalist in Beijing. The bans were ostensibly due to fears of potential conflicts of interest, but was Baron prohibited from editing coverage of sexist losers due to being one? Doesn’t look like it! Sonmez was also temporarily suspended after she tweeted a link to an article about rape allegations against Kobe Bryant shortly after his death in 2020, which led to a flood of rape and death threats that she had to “beg” her employer for security against, per the lawsuit. The Post reversed its ban on Sonmez covering sexual misconduct in March 2021 after she went public on Twitter about the policy.
According to the suit, Sonmez suffered “economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress, and the deprivation of her rights to equal employment opportunity,” as well as depression, anxiety, and physical pain as a result of her editors’ actions. The suit also alleges that Sonmez lost out on career opportunities because she was unable to cover some of the most newsworthy stories of the time.
Sonmez is suing for damages of $2,000,000 and is requesting a trial by jury. The defendants named in the lawsuit include the Post itself; Baron, the old-school editor who retired in February after overseeing an alleged sidelining of diversity issues and an exodus of Black talent in his nearly two decades at the paper; managing editors Cameron Barr and Tracy Grant; national editor Steven Ginsberg; deputy national editor Lori Montgomery; and senior politics editor Peter Wallsten. Sally Buzzbee, the Post’s new executive editor and the first woman to lead the paper in its 144-year history, is not among those being sued.