Cooper this week sued investment firm Franklin Templeton, claiming the company did not perform a legitimate investigation before firing her and alleging they falsely labeled her a racist as she became nationally known as “Central Park Karen.”
“Franklin Templeton’s alleged investigation and results provided legitimacy to the ‘Karen’ story, and appeared to provide justification for those who sought the destruction of the Plaintiff’s life,” says the lawsuit, which was filed in New York federal court on Tuesday and argues she’s the victim of racial discrimination.
In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokeswoman for Franklin Templeton said the company “responded appropriately” by firing Cooper.
“We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves,” the statement said. “We will defend against these baseless claims.”
Cooper’s lawsuit comes exactly a year after her encounter with Christian Cooper (who is not related) in Manhattan’s Central Park on May 25, 2020. Christian Cooper, an avid birdwatcher, was in a wooded area of the park at around 7:30 a.m., when he saw Amy Cooper’s dog unleashed and running around.
Christian Cooper, a writer, editor and LGBTQ rights activist, informed her that dogs in that area had to remain on the leash. When Amy Cooper refused to follow the rules, Christian Cooper pulled out his phone and began recording. Amy Cooper then threatened to call the police.
“I can be racially intimidated and kowtow to her,” Christian Cooper told The Post last May, but “I’m not going to participate in my own dehumanization.”
As Christian Cooper filmed, Amy Cooper called 911.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she said, later repeating Christian Cooper’s race.
Christian Cooper’s sister later posted the video to Twitter, where it racked up tens of million of views. The incident — which unfolded the same day that George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — made national headlines and swiftly became a flash point for outrage over racial injustice.
The consequences for Amy Cooper were significant. Hours after the video went online, Franklin Templeton posted a statement on Twitter condemning racism and saying she had been suspended while the firm investigated. The next day, the company said it had fired her.
Although Franklin Templeton didn’t name Amy Cooper in its statements, she claims in her lawsuit that she was so well known by this point that the company’s decision effectively labeled her a racist “with reckless disregard for the destruction of Plaintiff’s life in the process.”
The former portfolio manager alleges Franklin Templeton “performed no investigation” into the incident, did not interview her or Christian Cooper, and made no attempt at obtaining her full 911 call.
Additionally, the company overlooked her achievements as an “exceptional employee” who earned “high performer bonuses” three years in a row, the lawsuit says, and instead defamed her and discriminated against her based on her race and gender.
As a result, the complaint alleges, Amy Cooper “suffered substantial loss of earnings and benefits and endured severe emotional distress, and will continue to do so in the future.”
In the lawsuit, Amy Cooper demanded the company compensate her for lost wages, emotional distress, attorneys fees and punitive damages, among others.
Last summer, Cooper’s case inspired N.Y. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) to sign a bill that included criminal penalties for false 911 calls that are racially motivated.
In October, the Manhattan district attorney charged her with a misdemeanor for false reporting. But in February, prosecutors dismissed the case after Amy Cooper completed a counseling program.
In an opinion piece for The Post last July, Christian Cooper said he would not participate in the district attorney’s case against Amy Cooper.
“Considering that Amy Cooper has already lost her job and her reputation, it’s hard to see what is to be gained by a criminal charge, aside from the upholding of principle,” he wrote. “If her current setbacks aren’t deterrent enough to others seeking to weaponize race, it’s unlikely the threat of legal action would change that.”
Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.