Jordanian-American author Natasha Tynes has filed a lawsuit against her former publisher for its treatment of her in the midst of a social media controversy involving a metro worker.
According to USA Today, the author and activist claimed she dealt with various mental and health issues, had suicidal thoughts and was placed on leave from her job due to the backlash. She filed a $13 million lawsuit against Rare Bird Lit. in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles last week.
Tynes made headlines last month for photographing a Black female Washington D.C. metro worker eating on the train. She tweeted about the incident, sparking a social media firestorm resulting in Tynes' losing her book distribution deal.
The Black female employee accused of breaking the no eating rule did nothing wrong, according to Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (MATA). Even if the rule wasn't lax to begin with, the employee would not have faced major disciplinary action.
“This kind of incident wouldn’t be expected to result in more than counseling for a first offense,” said a WMATA spokesperson last month.
Although Tynes blasted the employee, the bus driver seen eating in the viral photo forgave her and hoped she filed a proper complaint.
In the lawsuit, the writer claims her reputation was ruined by the publisher. According to The Washington Post, the suit posited the controversy helped Rare Bird more by painting an "immigrant woman of color" as racist.
"Natasha has spoken out about the scourge of racism and bigotry and has been subjected to racism over the years as a result of her Jordanian heritage and her prominent accent," the lawsuit said.
The suit further states Tynes' experience as an immigrant may have contributed to the racial blindspot of the entire incident. USA Today reports a representative from Rare Bird did not object to her explanation: "Having not grown up in the United States, the issue of race had not even occurred."
Attorney William Moran of the law-firm Hawgood, Hawgood & Moran wants the "all-white" publisher to cover damages to his client's mental health and career. She reportedly was "hospitalized with chest pain, highly elevated blood pressure, hyperventilation, shakiness and suicidal ideations." In his statement, Moran claimed Tynes never wanted the employee punished for eating.
"Natasha Tynes was falsely and maliciously accused of being a racist and of threatening the physical safety of a Black woman by a publisher who knew better," he said in a statement. "Hours before, the publisher was well aware that my client had pleaded with WMATA not to discipline the employee and told her that "we've got your back." Well, my client still has the knife sticking out of her back. I have never seen a publisher throw one of their authors under the bus like this and knowingly destroy their lives on false pretenses."
Tynes' novel They Called Me Wyatt was set to be released on June 11.