‘Central Park Karen’ Sues Former Employer For Defamation

On the same day George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Amy Cooper called 911 on a Black birdwatcher in New York City’s Central Park. The May 25, 2020, incident was spurred by her fear of the birdwatcher, Christian Cooper (the two Coopers are unrelated), whom she alleged had a history of “aggressively confronting” dog owners for walking their dogs off-leash. He similarly initiated the dispute with her in the same aggressive manner while she was walking her dog alone, causing her “to reasonably fear” for the safety of her and her pet, Amy Cooper said.

When a video of the incident went viral, Amy Cooper was charged with making a false report, but the charges were dropped after she attended therapy sessions. But now Amy Cooper says her former employer, investment firm Franklin Templeton, fired her without doing a basic investigation into the confrontation, basing its decision on her race and gender. Cooper is now suing them for defamation, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and is seeking back pay and lost bonus, loss of unvested funds and other benefits, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Part of the suit brought by Amy Cooper reads: “Franklin Templeton perpetuated and legitimized the story of ‘Karen’ vs. an innocent African American to its perceived advantage, with reckless disregard for the destruction of Plaintiff’s life in the process,” the suit says. It also brands Christian Cooper, the man on whom she called the cops, “an overzealous birdwatcher engaged in Central Park’s ongoing feud between birdwatchers and dog owners.”

Amy Cooper alleges the company didn’t really look into the incident before firing Cooper the following day, just shy of five years after she was hired, the suit said. Instead, she was interviewed in the immediate aftermath, when she was still “palpably distraught and fearful of her safety,” Cooper said. And the company never spoke or tried to speak with Christian Cooper or any of the other dogwalkers he had previously accosted, she said.

The publicity caused the incident to become “international news as a racial flashpoint” in which she was misportrayed as a privileged White woman, Amy Cooper said. That, in turn, spurred “countless phone calls” and text messages from people who sought to threaten and harass ger, the suit alleges. Some of those people got Amy Cooper’s personal phone number from Franklin Templeton’s phone system, according to the suit.

The suit also claims she has suffered extreme emotional distress as a result and her “personal and professional life has been destroyed”.

Franklin Templeton said in a statement: “We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves and that the Company responded appropriately. We will defend against these baseless claims.”

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