Originally posted Tuesday, July 16, 2019 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
The recent lawsuit by Paul Ossmann against his former employer CBS46 reminded me that I hadn’t followed up on a 2017 suit by Valerie Hoff, a reporter dismissed that year by 11Alive.
Her case was closed last year with no trial and no announced settlement agreement.
She first sued 11Alive’s parent company TEGNA in state court of Fulton County in July, 2017 for what she deemed "breach of contract" after she was forced to resign in April over a joking use of the N-word in a private Twitter exchange with a source who is black.
She repeated the use of the N-word with the “a” at the end of it to a man she was seeking information from named Curtis Rivers, who is black. A non-black person using the N-word - even in its more casual usage - tends to be a no no in polite society no matter what the context and the man she was corresponding with made the exchange public.
"I was quoting something the gentleman said in a public tweet back to him in a private message but that doesn't make it any less offensive," Hoff wrote me in an exclusive message soon after it happened. "It was incredibly stupid and reckless. I was in the middle of a pressure-filled day trying to chase down the video of a man being beaten and kicked by two Gwinnett police officers, which this particular gentleman had posted on twitter. I repeatedly apologized and continue to do so.”
Rivers’ opinion at the time? “I just think it wasn't right for her to use that word in regards to a person who is African American on herself or use the word period for that matter," he wrote me.
Hoff was first suspended for two weeks and was given the impression she had handled the situation properly and would not lose her job.
But when news of her snafu hit FTVlive.com, a broadcast news gossip website, the TV station changed its tune and asked her to leave the station, suggesting a resignation looked better than a termination, according to the lawsuit.
Hoff’s attorney Amanda Thompson said they at first internally sought to get the station to pay out the rest of her contract ending January, 2018. But management rejected her request. The forced resignation "was a knee-jerk reaction and they stood by it," Thompson said.
Hoff sought unspecified damages but had no desire to get her job back.
The case was moved from state court to federal court in August, 2017. In March, 2018, Hoff received a protective order to keep information confidential.
A few days later, Hoff filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal with prejudice. It said, “The parties shall bear their own costs, expenses and fees.”
The case was officially closed in April, 2018. Hoff’s attorney Thompson confirmed today that the case was closed but had no further comment.
In a Facebook Messenger exchange, Hoff also declined to comment about the lawsuit or its results but said today that over the past two years, “I’m enjoying being a stay-at-home mom to a teen and an almost teen. They play a lot of baseball and I do a lot of laundry! I manage investments for my family.”
Hoff was an Emmy-winning reporter and anchor. She worked at 11Alive from 1999 to 2017 after eight years at CNN.
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