Reporter Sunni Khalid files employment discrimination suit against NPR
Originally published in Current, Feb. 3, 1997
Sunni Khalid, who recently reported from the Middle East for NPR, has filed a racial and religious discrimination lawsuit against the network and its foreign desk editor, Loren Jenkins. Khalid is seeking more than $2 million in damages.
Khalid, an African-American and Muslim, charges that NPR failed to provide him the same assignments, compensation, promotions and support that it has given white reporters. This is the fifth discrimination suit to be brought against NPR since 1995.
NPR spokesperson Kathy Scott says Khalid is "interpreting our efforts to correct serious performance problems with racial discrimination, which we categorically deny and intend to fight in court...." NPR has removed Khalid from his foreign reporting position but offered him other jobs here, Scott says. Though his overseas contract is up, he remains an NPR employee.
As a result of Khalid's complaints prior to the suit, NPR brought in a team of investigators to explore the treatment of minorities in the newsroom. NPR's Scott wouldn't reveal the results of that investigation. But Khalid's lawyers say the report found longstanding discrimination at NPR. They also say that NPR's new human resources director, Kathleen Jackson, told the NPR Board that racism was "pervasive" in the newsroom, and that a two-tiered salary structure had been maintained, one for whites, one for African-Americans. Scott says that claim is "a bunch of baloney."
Khalid's suit charges that:
- NPR managers including Jenkins have made discrimnatory remarks.
- NPR News never fulfilled a repeated promise that Khalid would be assigned to Johannesburg. Khalid banked on the assignment, turning down a job offer from a "major commercial news organization."
- During his first three months as Cairo Bureau chief, NPR failed to provide Khalid the same support it gave other foreign reporters--specifically, a car, studio, office assistance, driver, translator and Arabic lessons.
- NPR refused to promote Khalid to correspondent, despite a "highly favorable" performance review.
- Jenkins retaliated against Khalid when he made complaints, criticizing him unfairly and giving him lousy assignments.
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Related article: Insiders speculate that minority staffing issue contributed to departure of NPR News chief.
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