Judge tosses Washington Post reporter's discrimination suit

FILE - People walk by the One Franklin Square Building, home of The Washington Post newspaper, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Washington. A D.C. judge has dismissed Washington Post politics reporter Felicia Sonmez's suit against the newspaper, saying it did not discriminate against her as a woman or victim of sexual assault in Thursday, March 24, 2022 ruling. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A District of Columbia judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Washington Post politics reporter who said the newspaper discriminated against her as a woman and victim of sexual assault.

Felicia Sonmez sued the Post in July, saying the paper had barred her from reporting on sexual misconduct after she spoke publicly about her own experiences. The lawsuit filed in a district Superior Court named former top editor Marty Baron and five other editors for violating the district's Human Rights Act.

The Post lifted its ban on Sonmez reporting on sexual misconduct in March 2021.

In his ruling Thursday, Judge Anthony Epstein noted that the Post argued it took action against Sonmez because of her public statements, to avoid the appearance or perception of bias. That, he said, did not violate the law.

“A news publication has a constitutionally protected right to adopt and enforce policies intended to protect public trust in its impartiality and objectivity,” he wrote.

Sonmez’s lawyer, Sundeep Hora, said in an email, “We are disappointed in the court’s reasoning and plan to appeal the decision.” Washington Post spokesperson Kris Coratti declined to comment.

Sonmez had said the Post barred her from writing about Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court justice, and that she was later taken off other stories. In her complaint, she said one editor told her that “it would present ‘the appearance of a conflict of interest’” for her to report on sexual misconduct.

Sonmez’s lawsuit said she suffered humiliation, emotional distress, and physical pain from grinding her teeth at night because of the newspaper's actions.