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Writer sues after losing book deal over transit worker flap

WASHINGTON (AP) — A writer who faced social media backlash for calling out a transit worker eating on a train sued her publisher Friday after it cancelled her book deal over the controversy.

Lawyers for Natasha Tynes filed suit against publisher Rare Bird Lit., Inc. in Los Angeles County Superior Court, saying the company breached its contract and defamed the Maryland author. She’s seeking $13.4 million in damages.

In May, Tynes tweeted a picture of a female worker eating on a Washington Metro train with the message: “When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds.”

When the D.C.-area agency’s Twitter account reached out for more information, Tynes replied with the time, the train and the direction it was traveling

But scores of Twitter users criticized her for shaming the black worker, despite being a minority writer. Tynes is Jordanian American.

A transit worker union official said at the time that woman had been taking a break while going from one job to another. The union official also noted that Metro Transit police no longer enforce the ban on eating and drinking on trains.

Tynes later apologized, deleted the tweet and took down her personal website.

But the publishing house, which didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Saturday, swiftly condemned her comments and said it was canceling her book deal.

Tynes “did something truly horrible today in tweeting a picture of a metro worker eating her breakfast on the train this morning and drawing attention to her employer,” Rare Birds said in a statement. “Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies.”

In the lawsuit, Tynes’ lawyers say the company’s inflammatory statements forced their client to temporarily flee back to Jordan with her family because they endured weeks of online harassment, including death threats and racial slurs. The incident also caused Tynes “extreme emotional distress” and prompted her hospitalization for chest pains, severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts, according to the lawsuit.

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