January 06, 2011

This oughta be interesting

Trial set for firing over use of 'n' word:

A federal jury will be asked to decide whether it is acceptable for an African American person, but not a white person, to use the "n" word in a workplace.

U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick has ruled that former Fox29 reporter-anchor Tom Burlington's lawsuit against the station, claiming a double standard and alleging that he was the victim of racial discrimination, may go to trial. However, Surrick denied Burlington's claim of a hostile work environment.

Burlington, who is white, was fired after using the "n" word during a June 2007 staff meeting at which reporters and producers were discussing reporter Robin Taylor's story about the symbolic burial of the word by the Philadelphia Youth Council of the NAACP.

Burlington, who began work at the station in 2004 and is now working as a real estate agent, was suspended within days and fired after an account of the incident was published in the Philadelphia Daily News. He alleges that he "was discriminated against because of his race," according to court documents. He claims in his lawsuit that at least two African American employees at Fox29 had used the word in the workplace and were not disciplined.

While I'm not as ... "hard-assed" as some on demanding that everyone stop using the "N" word whether black or white (let's face it -- the term was used by whites for decades solely for the purpose of denigrating African-Americans), context is highly relevant (and important) in this instance. If indeed Burlington used the term as he claims, then his dismissal is ridiculous. If he used it as the Fox station claims, then it appears the defendants have grounds for firing him -- IF others (blacks) at the station weren't using it similarly.

Consider: If the courts rule that blacks can use the term at a workplace but whites cannot, then this appears to be a violation of equal protection. Imagine what can of worms could be opened ...

Posted by Hube at January 6, 2011 08:13 PM | TrackBack

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