April 26, 2000
The New York Times has finally launched a counterattack against Angela Dodson, the African-American editor who last fall slapped the Times with a lawsuit charging discrimination. The Times recently submitted its official response to Dodson's allegations. Dodson's complaint, according to the Times' response, "is devoid of factual and legal merit, and filed for the sole purpose of trying to embarrass the Times into settlement." Already, Dodson's suit has been a source of embarrassment for many of the paper's top managers Ñ including Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld and former Executive Editor Max Frankel Ñ who are among the named defendants. The Times has unveiled a two-pronged strategy to fight Dodson. In its official response, the Times attempts not only to poke holes in Dodson's argument, but also to claim that her complaint is invalid because she filed it more than a year after most of the discrimination allegedly occurred Ñ thus exceeding New York's statute of limitations for discrimination complaints. Hired in 1983, Dodson zoomed up the Times hierarchy Ñ rising in less than a decade from copy editor to head of the 42-member style department to senior editor in charge of recruiting reporters. Even though she was promoted faster and higher than many of her colleagues, Dodson claims her authority was repeatedly undermined. She says that her superiors left her out of crucial meetings. And she charges that they frequently criticized her in front of her subordinates though they chastised her colleagues in private.The Times contends, however, that in her complaint "Ms. Dodson fails to state that similarly situated whites, men, or non-disabled persons were treated differently. The nature of her complaint is only that (1) she was treated poorly, (2) she is in ... protected categories, and (3) therefore, the poor treatment was based on her protected-category status." Dodson's attorney, Joseph Maya, describes the Times countercharges as "bogus." And he dismisses the paper's claim that Dodson's 1995 complaint was filed too late. According to Maya, the discrimination cited continued until Dodson's firing in late 1995 Ñ well within the one-year limit.