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Recently let go, longtime SNY sportscaster Jonas Schwartz plans to file a multi-million dollar retaliation and race discrimination lawsuit against his former network in Southern District Federal Court next week, The Post has learned.
Schwartz’s lawyer, Kristan Peters-Hamlin, already has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a copy of which The Post obtained. The EEOC file is a requirement before a suit. Peters-Hamlin confirmed to The Post the plans for the forthcoming Federal Court filing next week and the damages sought.
“We are not aware of any lawsuit being filed and have no comment,” SNY said in a statement to The Post.
The EEOC complaint lays the groundwork of SNY’s alleged retaliation and discrimination against Schwartz because of his skin color. The 45-year-old Schwartz, who is white, did not have his contract renewed at end of last year after 14 years on SNY’s air.
Schwartz claims, following years of excellent reviews, SNY cut ties with him after he confronted his bosses about being taken off a social justice show when another broadcaster complained about working with “a couple of white guys.”
The EEOC complaint states that Schwartz hosted a two-part digital series on social justice and sports with Jeané Coakley, Bart Scott and Ralph Vacchiano in June after the killing of George Floyd.
Scott is African-American, while Coakley is of mixed race, having said on social media her father is Black and her mother is white. Vacchiano, like Schwartz, is white.
The June shows, according to the complaint, were well-received internally, gaining praise from SNY producers and executives.
In late August, the same foursome was supposed to host another digital show on social justice and football, according to the complaint.
After the Zoom taping time had moved to 1 p.m., Scott said he could not make it then. With Schwartz and Vacchiano ready to go, Coakley “emotionally stated,” according to the complaint, “Why are we doing this .. we’ve already done a show like this.”
The EEOC complaint added, “Ms. Coakley went on to say in a loud, pained voice, ‘No offense, but I don’t want to do this with a couple of white guys. You can’t understand what we are going through. Why are we doing this with white guys?’”
The Post requested to ask Coakley directly about this incident, but SNY declined to make her available.
Vacchianno, the complaint said, volunteered to step aside. Schwartz, according to the complaint, said, “He believed he had a valued opinion to share, as well, but would do whatever [SNY] directed.”
In the next hour, Schwartz claims he was pulled by Marc Davis, SNY’s coordinating producer, from the show. Davis allegedly told Schwartz to “take the week off” because he didn’t play the “right position” for the show. Davis had been among those who praised Schwartz for the June social justice shows, according to the complaint.
In the complaint, Schwartz said that Davis admitted that it could be an HR issue if Schwartz was another race..
“You are probably right,” Davis allegedly said.
The EEOC Claim cites the 1976 Supreme Court ruling that upheld McDonald v. Sante Fe Transp. Co by saying “white employees are equally protected against discrimination under race discrimination as black employees.”
SNY subsequently moved the social justice and football taping show to 5 p.m. and added Jamal Westerman, who is Black, to team with Coakley and Scott. Schwartz and Vacchiano were removed, according to the complaint.
In early September, Schwartz claims he reached out to his bosses, SNY executive producer Curt Gowdy Jr., Brad Como, Sr. VP, Content Development, as well as Human Resources manager, Jackie Mellett. During a Zoom, the bosses agreed the situation hadn’t been “handled correctly,” according to the complaint.
While they said they control who is on a show, the complaint alleges that pulling “a talented professional host because of race was improper.”
In October, Gowdy and Como informed Schwartz his position was being eliminated. However, the complaint says that is “pretextual” because there are two-and-half years left on SNY’s deal with the Jets and the network will need a host. Schwartz has been the lead of SNY’s Jets coverage for the past five years and has consistently received excellent internal reviews, according to the complaint.
SNY did have layoffs earlier in the summer, but the move with Schwartz was not part of a reorganization, according to the EEOC complaint.
“The employer admitted it’s race-based decision was improper, but then promptly retaliated against Jonas by terminating him for asserting his right to work in an environment free of discrimination,” Peters-Hamlin told The Post. “All employees are entitled to be judged based on their merits, and the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”
Last June in Connecticut, Peters-Hamlin prevailed in a multi-million retaliation case against Walmart in which she represented an ex-employee, who is Black.
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