Time Warner Beats Lawsuit Claiming a Pattern of Racial Discrimination at CNN

A putative class action is dismissed by a judge who sees "conclusory assertions, rank speculation, confusing statements, and generalized allegations."
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A federal judge in Georgia has knocked out a lawsuit against Time Warner that alleged rampant racial discrimination at some of its television networks including CNN and TBS. On Tuesday, the case was dismissed with the judge's remark that any amendment would be futile.

The lawsuit came from Celeslie Henley, who says she worked at CNN for seven years, and Ernest Colbert Jr., who worked at TBS for two decades. Together, they brought individual civil rights claims as well as putative class action ones that aimed to challenge an alleged pattern and practice of racial discrimination in performance evaluations, compensation, promotions and terminations. Attorneys for the plaintiffs suggested there were hundreds more who would join the lawsuit, and upon such news, the case gained notoriety in conservative-leaning circles.

Although the lawsuit leaned on reports from the Turner human resources department to make the case that minority employees received lower performance ratings, smaller salaries, were regularly passed over for promotions and were fired at a much higher rate than white employees, U.S. District Court judge William Duffey Jr. is less than impressed, writing that the complaint "is fraught with conclusory claims, unsupported by factual allegations sufficient to support the inferences claimed by Plaintiffs."

The judge grants defendants' motion to dismiss because he determines it doesn't meet a plausibility threshold.

Duffey continues his opinion by attacking a lawsuit that he sees as "littered with conclusory assertions, rank speculation, confusing statements, and generalized allegations," listing various examples. Among them is how Henley was also alleging sex- and pregnancy-related discrimination without bringing claims there and confusing the record for her racial discrimination ones. The judge also notes that it's baldly asserted that Colbert was “required to work twice as hard as his Caucasian counterparts,” but later allege that African Americans are required to “labor three times as long as Caucasians.”

The plaintiffs are faulted for a lack of factual support for allegations like the concentration of African Americans in less-powerful and non-revenue-generating areas and how the interview process is a "sham" to disguise preselected candidates for positions. The judge also notes that statistics relate to individuals "of color," including several races other than African Americans.

Lastly, the judge concludes that a proposed amended complaint "includes only cosmetic amendments — largely stylistic changes — which do not cure the deficiencies in the Complaint."

Here's the full ruling.

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