The trial in the race discrimination case brought by former WTXF reporter and anchor Tom Burlington starts today.
Burlington, who worked at the FOX-owned Philadelphia station from 2004 until 2007, is looking for unspecified damages. He says he was fired for saying the “n” word while reporters and editors were reviewing a story about the symbolic burial of the word.
Philly.com reports a court filing says Burlington has lost nearly $3 million in past and future earnings.
In his suit, Burlington paints Fox29 as operating on a race-based double standard in allowing African Americans to say the word but not whites. In court papers, Burlington’s attorney wrote that former anchor David Huddleston, who is black, used the n-word in a meeting to describe a criminal defendant; Huddleston suffered no consequences.
Fox29 attorneys sought to bar the Huddleston incident from trial. [U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay] Surrick denied their motion.
“Huddleston’s comments were arguably more offensive than Plaintiff’s, and yet his coworkers simply laughed and did not report them to management,” Surrick wrote in the May 27 memo. “A jury should be allowed to assess whether Plaintiff’s race accounts for the difference.”
Surrick wrote that he also will allow evidence about a prior discrimination suit filed by another former white anchorman against the Fox29.
Rich Noonan anchored the evening news at the station for most of the 1990s. After Evans allegedly complained that the news team was “too white,” Noonan’s contract was not renewed and he was replaced by Huddleston. The station eventually settled with Noonan for an undisclosed sum.
Burlington’s attorney, Laura Mattiacci, declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
“We’re very much looking forward to going to trial,” she said.