12:44pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Murdoch's News Corp. Hit With COVID-19 Whistleblower Suit
How to protect workers from COVID-19 has been one of the biggest subjects in business in 2020. On Thursday, a former New York Post photographer filed suit with the allegation that the tabloid and its parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., failed to provide him and other employees adequate personal protective equipment ("PPE"). In his complaint, Taidgh Barron also alleges being terminated after complaining.
Barron identifies himself as a staff photographer who began working for the paper in Sept. 2019. He says that in the first half of the year, he was regularly assigned to COVID-related stories including how a local pharmacy was running out of masks, how the virus was impacting ridership on the local subway system, and Mayor Bill de Blasio's press conferences. "The Post continued to put Barron at risk so he could provide firsthand coverage of the virus," states the complaint.
As further alleged, Barron expressed concern about having to be in close proximity with story subjects. He says he was assaulted when covering Black Lives Matter protests, and afterwards, inquiring whether he'd be provided with civil unrest PPE – press helmets, vests and eye protection.
"On July 22, 2020, less than two months after Barron’s request for civil unrest PPE and five months after his request for coronavirus PPE, The Post terminated Barron’s employment. The Post claimed that its decision was a financial one."
He asserts that her former employer violated the “general duty clause” of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act "when they failed to provide Barron and other Post photographers and reporters with PPE to protect against injury while covering the Black Lives Matter protests," but his direct claim is retaliation for whistleblowing under New York labor law. Here's the complaint.
A New York Post spokesperson responded to the lawsuit, "We expect to prevail in this matter because the allegations of wrongdoing are utterly and completely false. All staff who requested PPE were given it as soon as it could be obtained and no employee was turned down. As was explained to employees at the time, the layoffs in July occurred to save costs in the midst of the pandemic, which had affected revenues. The allegation that anyone was terminated in retaliation for a whistleblower complaint is demonstrably untrue."