Tom Burlington’s suit against Fox29 is making its way to the federal courtroom. Burlington, former TV reporter for Fox29, claims that he was fired from the news station after using the n-word outside of the context of malice. He used the word during a newsroom meeting and says Black employees were not punished for using the same word. The case has met with many delays for a few years now. Initially, the trial was supposed to take place in January of 2011. Fox attorneys were able to successfully derail the case until another similar case could be passed through the U.S. Supreme Court. In the likened case, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
R. Barclay Surrick, U.S. District Judge, wrote a memorandum stating, “[w]e will not further delay its resolution by permitting ‘piecemeal review and its attendant delays and waste of time.’”
Burlington originally used the derogatory word during a discussion at a newsroom meeting on June 23, 2007. He and producers were chatting about a story concerning the symbolic burial of the word by the Philadelphia Youth Council of the NAACP. In the ceremony, the n-word was used nearly 100 times.
“Does this mean we can finally say the word n*gger?” Burlington detrimentally asked in the meeting. One of the show’s producers, who is black, exclaimed, “I can’t believe you just said that!”
Joyce Evans, Burlington’s co-anchor, who was not in the meeting, later confronted him about his statement.
“Because you’re white you can never understand what it’s like to be called a ngger and … you cannot use the word ngger,” Evans told him, according to the suit.
Evans denies using the n-word at all.
Since Burlington’s removal, Evans has been the anchor of “Fox 29 News at Six.” The following year, she was named Broadcast Journalist of the Year by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
When recently asked if she had any comments about the lawsuit, she said, “I have absolutely none.”
Several of the station’s African-American employees complained about Burlington’s use of the word to their superiors. He was sent a stern email on July 3, 2007 stating that his “behavior was unacceptable and will not be tolerated. You will not be warned again.” He was also told to enlist in a Racial Sensitivity Course. He says that he signed up for one immediately.
On July 12, 2007, Burlington’s contract was not renewed at the station, despite encouragement from the news director, Philip Metlin, that he would “come through this without any problems.” Burlington was paid through the duration of his contract that ended Feb.19, 2008.
The case, which was filed in May of 2009, may soon be heard by a jury. Burlington’s attorney, Laura Mattiaci, says, “We are very much looking forward to this trial. We’ve been waiting many years.”
Source: Financial Juneteenth