Former People Editor Sues Over Racial Discrimination

A former senior editor of People has sued the magazine and its parent company, Time Inc., alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race. Tatsha Robertson, 48, was the only black senior editor in the magazine’s history, having joined in 2010 after previously working at Essence. Robertson alleges that the mistreatment began almost immediately and that she found herself left out of important meetings and singled out as a member of a white-dominated staff.

Robertson’s suit claims that the discrimination she faced is part of a larger culture of racial disparity at People, from the makeup of its staff to the coverage the magazine provides. She points to the rare appearances of black celebrities on People’s cover — only 14 black people on 265 covers since 2010 — and the ways in which black subjects are held to different standards than white subjects. Robertson is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Employees’ rights against discrimination

Policies against racial discrimination are standard in most workplaces. But a policy will not necessarily stop an individual from engaging in discriminatory practices, particularly if the larger culture of the company doesn’t take the policy seriously. Because racial discrimination is such a serious matter, it is important for businesses to handle allegations in a responsible manner. An employee making an allegation should also take precautions to ensure the case is treated appropriately. An understanding of company policy and an awareness of the chain of command are critical, as is thorough documentation of the incident or pattern of discrimination.

Once the discrimination has been reported to the company, there are several things an employee can do to strengthen their case. First, you should give the company time to investigate and avoid making waves in the meantime. Following up with the company is totally justified, as is contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to verify that the company is acting within the letter of the law. Finally, you should contact an experienced New York City employment law attorney at the Derek T. Smith Law Group.

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