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The Young Turks Sued for Racial Discrimination by Ex-Employee

The Young Turks, the progressive news and media company, has been sued by a former employee who alleged he was subjected to discriminatory treatment — and ultimately fired — because he is black.

Andrew Jones, a black journalist who worked for TYT Network for six months in 2017, alleged that he was held to a different standard than white colleagues. Jones claimed he was fired after he refused to sign a severance agreement under which he would agree to not sue TYT Network for racial discrimination.

Jones’s lawsuit seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages of at least $75,000, plus attorney’s fees and litigation costs. He says he suffered economic injury in the form of lost wages and a “harmed reputation” as well as “considerable emotional distress,” according to the lawsuit.

Reps for TYT Network did not respond to a request for comment.

Jones had previously filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, in January, with the same allegations. According to his lawsuit, Jones complained to TYT Network CEO Cenk Uygur about his perceived mistreatment by a manager. “Mr. Uygur ignored all of his complaints and instead impliedly threatened Plaintiff stating that his complaints and the method of his complaining about perceived unequal treatment by his supervisor could be a ‘fireable offense’ in and of itself,” according to the lawsuit.

Uygur responded to Jones’ complaint in January, saying the comments Jones attributed to him were completely false. “Of course we care a great deal about diversity in the workplace — that is part and parcel of what we do and who we are. We will defend our record and not give in to baseless demands,” Uygur said in a statement at the time.

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During his employment at TYT, Jones alleged in his lawsuit, managing editor Jonathan Larsen treated him unfairly in multiple ways compared with white coworkers, including denying Jones a travel budget, requiring different and shorter deadlines, demanding higher and “ever-shifting” standards for articles, responding more slowly, and engaging in “general hostile behavior.”

Jones also alleged that David Koller, the head of HR and one of the founders of TYT, called Jones to discuss his concerns. “Mr. Koller acted concerned and stated he would start an investigation into the matter given the gravity of the charges. However, Plaintiff never heard from him directly again, Plaintiff never heard from anyone else concerning an investigation being conducted or completed, so it is highly likely no investigation ever occurred.”

In addition, Jones alleged that Koller “is publicly known for making racist comments”; for example, referring to less affluent black people in the South who relax on their porch on hot summer days as “po’ black people just hanging out in the heat.”

TYT Network eventually placed Jones on a probationary two-week evaluation period, because (he claimed he was told) Jones had “failed to create any original or exclusive content.” On Oct. 5, because Jones “allegedly failed to meet Larsen’s professional standards,” TYT “pushed for Plaintiff to sign a severance package where he would waive his civil rights claims, receive approximately one month’s salary, and resign,” according to the lawsuit. Jones refused to sign the agreement and was fired, the lawsuit said.

Jones’ lawsuit was filed Tuesday (July 17) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

TYT, a digital news and pop-culture network best known for its “Young Turks” political news and commentary show, last summer raised $20 million in funding from investors including WndrCo, the media investment firm co-founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Founded in 2002 by Uygur as an online-radio show, TYT has grown to reach more than 12 million followers across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and has generated more than 8 billion video views to date.

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