When news first broke four years ago on the suspension of a Fox News broadcaster for using the N-word during a staff meeting, there were immediately two opposing sides to the issue:
One side claimed that the anchor had actively participated in discrimination against his coworkers by saying the word and that his suspension and eventual termination were justified. On the other side though were those who believed that it was in fact the anchor who had been discriminated against, arguing that he had been wrongfully terminated from his position.
Before the issue could be addressed by the courts though, the case of Burlington v. News Corp. was put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court was deciding on a similar case in 2011. But even though the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in that case, Burlington’s case continued to remain on hold. That is until quite recently when U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick announced that former news anchor Tom Burlington would finally have his day in court.
For those unfamiliar with the case, Burlington asserts that his termination was the direct result of reverse discrimination. In order to prove this, he needs to meet three requirements, one of which is the ability to prove that his adverse employment was the result of a trait protected by Title VII. According to the court case, Burlington has been able to show that he, being a white man, was reprimanded for using the term while black coworkers who had also used the term were not. The court believes that this, coupled with the other two reasons, is what supports his claim of reverse discrimination.
But as you may have already realized by the fact that the case has been on hold for four years, cases like this are incredibly complicated, meaning it may take more time before a decision is made.
It’s also because of the case’s complexity and precedent that strong legal representation will also be needed as well. While the Burlington case is an unusual example, workplace discrimination claims based on race, gender, sexual orientation, medical conditions and other factors are commonplace. An immediate and appropriate response to the claims, with the help of experienced legal and human resources counsel, can resolve the dispute before it turns into litigation or lead to early and amicable resolution of the litigation once it begins.
Source: Philly.com, “Suit over fired Fox anchor’€™s use of “€˜N-word” gets green light,” Sam Wood, Feb. 10, 2015