People Magazine Sued for Racial Discrimination

Tatsha Robertson
Tatsha Robertson

Brand new media company Time Inc. just got itself a brand new lawsuit. A former senior editor is suing People magazine, its parent company Time Inc., and her former boss Betsy Gleick for racial discrimination.

Tatsha Robertson, a former Boston Globe reporter, filed the suit in Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday. Robertson claims that she was the only black senior editor in the magazine’s history until she was laid off in May, and that only four of its “approximately” 110 employees are black.

Robertson specifically named People’s executive editor Betsy Gleick in the suit (which you can read in full here, via the New York Daily News), saying Gleick told her in an early performance evaluation to “talk like everyone else here. You’re not at Essence anymore.” Robertson also alleges that Gleick “repeatedly insisted” that People write about “white middle-class suburbia,” and that stories Robertson pitched about black people and the black community were usually rejected because “you know the rule—white suburban women in distress.”

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Robertson left the Globe in 2006 for Essence magazine, where she was a deputy editor until moving to People in 2010.

The suit also notes how few black people have been featured on People’s covers in the past four years, and that its coveted “Sexiest Man Alive” honorific has only been bestowed upon a black man once in 29 years. The reigning Sexiest Man Alive is Adam Levine. He is white.

The problem wasn’t just Gleick, Robertson claims. She also calls Time Inc. “a discriminatory organization run entirely by white people,” which has “reinforced an atmosphere in which it seems appropriate and without any consequence to openly make racist and highly offensive remarks, treat black employees like second class citizens and, ultimately, derails the careers of hard-working African-Americans like Ms. Robertson, who was terminated because of her race.”

Robertson was laid off from Time Inc. in May. Her position was not eliminated, but she claims “white former colleagues who are clearly less qualified” to take her place.

Gleick left the magazine in June, a few weeks after Time Inc. was spun off of Time Warner as a separate company.

A spokesperson for People declined to comment to Boston.com on the suit.