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Woman in NYC birdwatching confrontation loses lawsuit claiming she was unjustly fired

Franklin Templeton dismissed Cooper in May 2020, shortly after the widely publicized Central Park incident.

NEW YORK — Amy Cooper, the White woman who became known as "Central Park Karen" after calling 911 to claim that a Black birdwatcher had threatened her, lost a lawsuit alleging her former employer had engaged in racist and sexist behavior when it fired her after the incident. 

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams on Wednesday rejected Cooper's claims that employer Franklin Templeton had unjustly fired and defamed her. The investment firm dismissed Cooper in May 2020, shortly after the widely publicized Central Park incident. The firm tweeted about her termination on May 26, 2020, saying "We do not tolerate racism of any kind." 

RELATED: Woman in NYC Central Park birdwatching confrontation sues over firing

In May 2021, Cooper sued Franklin Templeton, alleging both racial and gender discrimination in her termination. 

The judge rejected those claims in a 17-page ruling on Wednesday. In the lawsuit, Cooper had claimed that Franklin Templeton had treated her differently than three male employees who had engaged in misconduct ranging from insider trading to domestic violence. But Abrams ruled the cases weren't similar enough to prove bias, partly given that Cooper herself described her own incident as "international news as a racial flashpoint."

Cooper "cannot plausibly allege that she was subjected to a 'company-wide double standard' merely by identifying three male comparators who engaged in some — other — form of misconduct, but were not similarly fired," Abrams wrote. 

Didn't meet the threshold for defamation

Abrams said Franklin Templeton's statements about Cooper, such as its tweet that "we do not tolerate racism," didn't meet the threshold for defamation, partly because those comments didn't imply they knew anything more than was already available to the public about the encounter.

"The incident received heightened media and public scrutiny, in particular, because it took place 'in the midst of a national reckoning about systemic racism,'" the judge wrote, noting that Cooper's incident occurred on the same day as George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis. 

RELATED: Case dismissed against woman who called 911 on birdwatcher in NYC Central Park

She added, "The contents of the viral video, as well as the dialogue surrounding it both in the media and on social media, were already matters of public knowledge when [Franklin Templeton's] May 26 tweet was posted."

"We are pleased that the court has dismissed the lawsuit. We continue to believe the company responded appropriately," Franklin Templeton said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

Cooper's attorneys didn't immediately return requests for comment.

Phone call to 911

The incident was sparked by Cooper's calling the police after a Black birdwatcher in Central Park, Christian Cooper (who has no relation to Amy Cooper), asked her to leash her dog in an area of the park where leashing is required. 

RELATED: White woman charged in racist NYC run-in made a 2nd 911 call

In response, she called 911 and repeatedly identified Christian Cooper by his race, demanding that the dispatcher "send the cops immediately" and falsely accusing him of threatening her life. Christian Cooper recorded the verbal dispute on video, which went viral and became part of the national discussion about race during the Black Live Matter movement sparked by Floyd's murder.

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