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Former Wall Street Journal reporter files discrimination lawsuit

The reporter, Stephanie Armour, says the newspaper invented reasons to give journalists poor performance reviews in an effort to shed workers.

The reporter, Stephanie Armour, says the newspaper invented reasons to give journalists poor performance reviews in an effort to shed workers.

The front of the Wall Street Journal building in New York City. (Photo by John Wisniewski via Flickr)
The front of the Wall Street Journal building in New York City. (Photo by John Wisniewski via Flickr)

A former Wall Street Journal reporter has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the newspaper for allegedly inventing reasons to give employees poor performance reviews in an effort to justify firing or laying them off.

The reporter, Stephanie Armour, claims the strategy was part of a broader effort to cut down on employee-related expenses, despite the fact that the newspaper has pulled in sizable profits over the past few years.

Armour now works as a correspondent for KFF Health News (formerly Kaiser Health News), a California non-profit news outlet that covers the health industry. She previously worked as a health care correspondent for the Journal before leaving the paper of her own accord earlier this year.

Her departure came several months before the Journal implemented a wave of layoffs that saw dozens of journalists leave its local and national news teams and the closure of several regional news hubs.

According to the lawsuit, Armour suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Both are recognized under Washington, D.C. law as disabilities, and entitle her to certain benefits and protections.

While at the Journal, the newspaper allowed her to work remotely from home until 2015, when a dispute with an editor resulted in Armour being ordered back into the office, according to the complaint. The Journal later granted her a request to work from home two days per week, before being reassigned to other supervisors who expanded her remote work situation to three days per week. She transitioned to a full-time remote worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis that she covered extensively for the paper.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Armour says she worked tirelessly — as often as “seven days a week nearly 24 hours a day, for two years,” according to the complaint. She received a performance bonus, and the Journal was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes.

After the pandemic, Armour was pressured to return to the office for at least three days per week, the complaint said. She requested expanded remote working accommodations, which the Journal approved. But several days later, newly-minted Washington Bureau chief Damian Paletta issued a formal performance warning, which opened the door for the possibility of her firing in the future.

Armour filed a union grievance, which was dropped after she resigned from the Journal to move to KFF Health News. Before her resignation, she was a board member with the union that represents Journal reporters, and claims in her lawsuit that she was afforded first-hand knowledge of the discrimination practices by the newspaper against other similarly-positioned veteran journalists, based on their grievances.

Other reporters who faced performance-related issues at the Journal include “a senior reporter who had just taken medical leave; a disabled veteran and reporter who had taken paternity leave and whose leave was mentioned in his performance improvement plan; and, a multiple award-winning reporter who had high medical costs due to a heart condition,” according to Armour’s complaint.

The lawsuit was first reported by NPR on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Journal said they believed the complaint was “without merit,” and noted that Armour “left the Journal on her own accord.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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