Jury: No, a white TV anchor getting fired for using the N-word is not racial discrimination


A federal jury on Tuesday rejected a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a white Philadelphia TV news anchor who was fired for using the N-word.

Former Fox29 anchor Tom Burlington argued that his employer created a double standard by allowing black employees to use the slur and not allowing white employees to do so. In his complaint, Burlington claimed he was “discriminated against, retaliated against and subjected to a hostile work environment based on his race.”

Burlington reportedly used the word several times while discussing a story with black co-workers, and then used the word again while apologizing to them. He also told his black co-anchor Joyce Evans that someone else had called her a “N— bitch,” according to testimony reported by the Philadelphia Daily News.

A week after the discussion, Burlington was suspended without pay, and later fired after the Daily News reported he had used the epithet.

What was Burlington’s excuse? He thought that using the phrase “the N-word” rather than the actual slur “ultimately gave the word more power,” according to his complaint.

“He didn’t realize that people were offended by the word itself,” his lawyer, Laura Mattiacci, said in her closing argument, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “Maybe he was naive, but he wasn’t malicious.”

The all-white jury didn’t buy it, ruling against him. His lawsuit asked for damages, claiming he was unable to work in TV news and now works as a real estate agent.

It’s unclear whether Burlington plans to appeal. We’ve reached out to Burlington’s and the TV station’s lawyers and will update if we hear back.

According to a 2012 study by the National Association of Black Journalists, only 14% of newsroom management positions at Fox Television Stations are held by people of color and only 5% of management positions are held by black people.

Here’s Burlington’s full complaint:

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.

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