Felicia Sonmez, a national politics reporter, announced in a complaint filed Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court that she was prevented from reporting on sexual misconduct after she issued a statement in September 2018 on the resignation of a Los Angeles Times journalist who she stated had assaulted her. He has denied the charges, explaining that what happened was consensual.
According to the lawsuit, after Sonmez issued the statement, she was prevented from covering stories about sexual misconduct, a ban lifted earlier this year after she publicly denounced the paper for its position.
“The Post disciplined Ms. Sonmez for making herself the ‘star’ of her own sexual assault and for criticizing other news organizations,” the complaint claimed.
The lawsuit names WP Company LLC, former Post executive editor Marty Baron, managing editors Cameron Barr and Tracy Grant, deputy national editor Lori Montgomery, and senior politics editor Peter Wallsten.
Somnez announced that Barr told her she had “taken a side on the issue’” of sexual assault by going public with her own story, while Ginsburg told her that “it would present ‘the appearance of a conflict of interest’” for her to report on sexual misconduct, according to the complaint.
Sonmez explained that the ban was later extended so that she could not cover sexual misconduct at all, and that she was frequently taken off stories.
The paper further put her on leave in January 2020 after she tweeted a link to a story about a 2003 rape allegation against Kobe Bryant hours after he died. She was cleared to return to work after intense criticism of the suspension from Post colleagues.
Washington Post spokesperson Kris Coratti refused to comment on the matter.
The lawsuit alleges Sonmez had been “chastised, silenced and subjected to humiliation on a repeated basis for being a victim of sexual assault, for defending herself against false accusations and for her opposition to Defendants’ attempts to depict her as unworthy or unable to perform the duties of her position.”
It further claims that Sonmez has lost chances for career advancement and has experienced “economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress, and the deprivation of her rights to equal employment opportunities.”
The suit further claims Sonmez has undergone “serious and verifiable emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation that has required, and will continue to require, medical treatment and medication.”
Sonmez is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and to force the paper to take steps to remedy its conduct and prevent similar situations.