A Black executive working out of Condé Nast’s Manhattan headquarters claims he was fired for allegedly stealing two bowls of oatmeal from the employee cafeteria—but says white staffers “regularly” stole food without repercussion.
Bradley Bristol, who was hired as a senior finance analyst in the august media company’s video and entertainment unit last January, had receipts for the food and provided them to higher-ups, according to a newly filed civil lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast. However, Bristol believes management was already bent on terminating him for having complained about allegedly discriminatory treatment by his boss, and ginned up the oatmeal narrative as a pretext for pushing him out, the suit alleges.
Racial issues have roiled Condé Nast in recent years, leading to what The New York Times deemed “a reckoning” in 2020. That June, the editor in chief of Bon Appétit, a venerable Condé title, stepped down after photos surfaced of him wearing brownface. Two days later, the company’s head of lifestyle video programming for Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, Vogue, Self, Allure, and Glamour resigned amid accusations of racism and biased treatment of non-white employees. Anna Wintour, the longtime editor of Vogue, followed with an apology, taking “full responsibility” for “mistakes… publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant.” In 2021, the editor in chief of Teen Vogue was ousted from her job before she even started, when anti-Asian tweets she had posted a decade earlier went viral.
A Condé Nast spokesperson and the general counsel for Advance Publications, Condé’s parent company, did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment on Monday.
In an email, Bristol’s attorneys, Reyna Lubin and Eric Baum, called his decision to file a lawsuit “courageous,” and emphasized that Condé Nast “stood firm on their decision” to fire Bristol even after being shown proof he had indeed paid for the oatmeal in question.
“Racial discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated,” Lubin and Baum said, adding that they “look forward to pursuing justice on [Bristol’s] behalf.”
Bristol applied for the Condé Nast job in December 2022 and was hired the next month, according to his lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 10 in New York State Supreme Court. Bristol was assigned to a team of five people, of which he was the only Black member, the suit states.
Almost immediately, there were problems, according to Bristol. During the interview process, he says he was told he’d be reporting to a certain supervisor but wound up being assigned to someone else once he started. This person, the lawsuit contends, was “disrespectful and rude” to Bristol, and “repeatedly placed him in situations where he was unable to succeed.”
Bristol claims he was given a work laptop that lacked the proper software, which took several days to rectify, the suit goes on. When he was finally up and running, the suit continues, Bristol’s boss “refused to train him,” wouldn’t answer any of his questions, and regularly called outside of work hours to berate him about his job performance, “using profane language.”
“Mr. Bristol never observed [his supervisor] treat any white persons on his team in this manner,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Bristol was confused by this treatment and in February began telling his colleagues he believed [his supervisor] was mistreating him.”
Bristol went up the chain of command at Condé with his complaint, getting an audience the following month with an executive director at the company. He told the director he was “the only Black person on the team and the only person being treated so poorly,” according to the lawsuit. In response, the suit says the director told Bristol he “was not surprised” to hear this.
At the end of March, Bristol was surprised to see that his entire work calendar had been completely cleared, and a meeting with the head of Human Resources had been scheduled, according to the lawsuit. When he showed up for the appointment, Bristol says he was “abruptly terminated.”
Condé’s HR head told Bristol he was “being terminated for stealing two bowls of oatmeal from the grab-and-go cafeteria,” the suit states.
“During his employment with Defendants, Mr. Bristol ate bowls of oatmeal from the grab-and-go cafeteria on the 35th floor,” it argues. “Mr. Bristol always paid for the oatmeal he ate. Mr. Bristol even provided receipts for the two bowls of oatmeal in question to Defendants.”
The suit says race was the reason Bristol was treated “less favorably than his non-Black colleagues, many of whom, upon information and belief, regularly took food from the cafeteria without paying for it.”
Bristol was also accused—falsely, he insists—of swiping a book from the reception area.
“Mr. Bristol informed [the HR head] that he moved the book to read it, but the book was still in the office,” the lawsuit states.
The head of HR told Bristol that he “shouldn’t have taken the book off the table where it was located, and that the decision was final,” according to the suit. Later that day, Bristol asked for, and received an email, “reflecting that he was fired for taking a book and failing to pay for two bowls of oatmeal.”
Bristol’s suit says nobody ever spoke to him about any of the “outlandish allegations against him” until he was fired. In short, the suit argues, Condé Nast “falsely accused a Black man of stealing and used this as a pretext to terminate him.”
The timing of his firing, which came “just weeks after Mr. Bristol raised concerns of racial discrimination with an Executive Director at the Company,” indicates retaliation, according to the suit.
Bristol says he has suffered “severe psychological and emotional harm,” as well as “emotional distress,” as a result of his experience at Condé Nast. His lawsuit claims he “deserved to retain his employment free of race discrimination… and did not do anything to merit discharge or discipline.”
Bristol now wants a judge to order Condé to take specific steps to “prevent racial discrimination and retaliation in the workplace,” and is demanding damages in an amount to be determined at trial.