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N.Y. TIMES SLAMMED WITH N.J. BIAS SUIT

Aug 26, 2004 | New York Post

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in favor of two long-time employees of The New York Times who claim that they were subject to racial and religious discrimination at the paper's Edison, N.J., printing plant.

The ruling urges all of the bickering parties to resolve their disputes through negotiations. If that fails, they could be headed to court.

The Times has denied the claims, maintaining that it has anti-discrimination policies in place.

Still, the explosive complaints may roil The Times once again.

Leroy Hilton, an assistant foreman in the delivery department in the Edison plant, said he was subject to racial taunts by co-workers, according to the EEOC ruling.

The EEOC last week said that its investigation showed that Hilton and others at the plant were subject to a "racially hostile work environment."

In another complaint, Harvey Alpert, who also works in the Edison plant, alleged that a co-worker repeatedly referred to him with anti-Semitic epithets and expressed a desire to kill him. Alpert also said that other workers made mocking comments about Jewish holidays.

The EEOC ruled in Hilton's case in mid-July that The Times "did not take reasonable care to avoid harassment in the workplace by having an effective mechanism for dealing with complaints."

The federal agency also ruled that regarding Alpert, "there is probable cause that [Alpert] was discriminated against on account of his religion (Jewish)" and that managers did not put a stop to the behavior of the offenders.

"It is incomprehensible in this day and age that The Times should allow this to go on," claims Jeffrey Bernbach, attorney for both Hilton and Alpert. "Upper management knew about this and did nothing," he claims.

If the EEOC-ordered negotiations fail to resolve the differences, both of the discrimination cases could be headed to court, where Bernbach said he will seek punitive damages. Both of the employees continue to work at The Times.

"At this stage it would be inappropriate to discuss these most preliminary of findings other than to say that The New York Times Company has a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy that includes provisions for employees to raise concerns, and we strictly enforce that policy," a Times spokeswoman said.

In an ironic twist, the complaints are the polar opposite of the problems that rocked the paper during the Jayson Blair scandal, when a young black journalist who was forced to resign in May 2003 after nearly two years of fraud, errors, faked datelines and plagiarism came to light.

In that case, many felt that Blair was coddled and protected because of his race and that The Times brass, in trying to foster a more diverse newsroom, allowed him repeated chances despite early signs of some problems in his reporting.


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