The war is over.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Wayne P. Saitta dismissed a lawsuit filed in October by Fifth Avenue coffee hotspot yesterday, accusing both the shop’s former employees and The New York Times of defamation.
"Anti-speech lawsuits like the one from Gorilla Coffee can have a dangerous chilling effect on the robust exchange of opinions in the public arena," said Martin Garbus, the legendary First Amendment litigator who defended the employees pro-bono alongside Brandworkers, a workers' rights non-profit for retail and food employees. "The lawsuit had no merit and this victory is an important vindication of workers' First Amendment right to speak out in the news media."
Owners Darleen Scherer and Carol McLaughlin claimed that employees defamed the revered coffee spot by posting a resignation letter on the shop’s front door claiming the store was “a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment” that was “unhealthy” and “unworkable.” The walkout of nearly the entire staff forced the shop to shut down for over two weeks.
Times reporter Oliver Strand, who was represented by Times' attorney David McCraw, was sued for reprinting the letter.
The coffee shop’s suit argued that it “sustained a loss of reputation and a decline in business” due to both the Times article and the two weeks that the store was shuttered due a lack of employees. The motion to dismiss was made by the Times.
"My co-workers and I did nothing but truthfully express our opinion regarding the lack of respect for employees at Gorilla Coffee," said Lee Harrison, a former worker at the cafe and a defendant in the dismissed lawsuit. "We are extremely happy to win the case and to send a message to coffee workers and all workers that you can stand up for your rights."
Gorilla Coffee did not respond to a request for comment.
Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that David McCraw represented The New York Times.