Woman who called police on Black bird-watcher in Central Park loses employment appeal

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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Thursday refused to reinstate a lawsuit by Amy Cooper, the white woman who became known as "Central Park Karen" after calling police on a Black bird-watcher, against the employer that fired her following the encounter.

In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Cooper did not prove that Franklin Templeton illegally dismissed her on the basis of race or defamed her by branding her a racist.

Cooper had been an insurance portfolio manager at Franklin Templeton, a unit of San Mateo, California-based Franklin Resources.

"Karen" is sometimes used as a pejorative for an entitled white woman.

The case arose from a May 25, 2020 video that went viral, in which Cooper confronted bird-watcher Christian Cooper, who is not related.

Amy Cooper said she would tell police "there's an African-American man threatening my life" after Christian Cooper asked her to leash her dog to comply with park rules.

Franklin Templeton fired Amy Cooper the next day, saying it had conducted an internal review and that "we do not tolerate racism of any kind."

The appeals court said Franklin Templeton's statements said nothing about Cooper's race, and that if reasonable readers thought it were accusing her of racism they would have considered it an "expression of opinion" based on the video.

That video, the court added, had been circulated "in the midst of an ongoing national reckoning about systemic racism," having been taken the same day a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, who was Black.

Lawyers for Cooper did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Franklin Templeton said it was pleased with the decision. "We continue to believe the company responded appropriately," it added.

The decision upheld a lower court judge's dismissal of Cooper's case last September.

The case is Cooper v Franklin Templeton Investments et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-2763.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Bill Berkrot)