9:14 pm Jan. 10, 20134
The Daily News has been slapped with another age discrimination suit by one of its employees on the photo desk.
David Burns, a picture editor at the News since 2010, is taking the tabloid to court for "discriminatory and retaliatory practices," alleging specifically that he was "harassed and overlooked for promotions based on his age and health issues," according to a press release distributed by the Queens law firm handling his case.
A summons and complaint were filed in New York State Supreme Court on Jan. 8. The damages are yet to be determined, said a spokesperson for the firm, White, Rose and Marks, P.C. The complaint asks for a jury trial, which could mean they want the jury to set the award if the case is successful.
The complaint follows a similar legal action last year in which two laid-off News photographers sued the paper for age and gender discrimination.
Burns, a 50-year-old New Jersey resident and volunteer firefighter, accuses News photo managing editor and National Enquirer alumnus Alexander Hitchen, who joined the paper last summer, of stiffing him on cost reimbursement and triggering anxiety attacks and high blood pressure.
Hitchen passed Burns over for the position of deputy managing editor after pressuring Burns to fire 21 freelance photographers, the complaint alleges. It claims Hitchen told Burns he didn't get the job because of his "age and health” and that Hitchen said this was “better for [Burns]” because “at your age, you should be concerned about your health and your family.”
In the fall, tensions between Hitchen and Burns escalated to the point where Burns was prescribed higher doses of anti-anxiety and blood pressure meds, according to the complaint.
Sources familiar with the situation confirmed that Burns and Hitchen have been butting heads for months. Hitchen, they said, was irked that Burns, who is said to have a good relationship with News editor-in-chief Colin Myler (his former colleague at rival tabloid the New York Post), resisted axing the photo freelancers, most of whose schedules ending up being cut anyway.
One insider also confirmed that Burns does not appear to be in good shape.
"He didn't look good," said a person who saw him recently. "He looks beaten down, defeated."
But Burns "knows his job," our source said. "He really is somebody that should be more involved. If he had never tried to run head-on with the freelancer thing, he probably would have been made deputy."
Reached via email, a spokesperson for the paper would only say: "The Daily News does not comment on matters in litigation."
Burns' attorney, Vincent White, was more voluble.
“Employees should be judged solely on their merit, experience and work produced,” he said in a statement. “To suggest that Mr. Burns is not ‘up to’ the challenge of a promotion based on his anxiety issues and age is ridiculous and the fact that the Daily News retaliated against Mr. Burns when he tried to stand up for himself adds insult to injury."
We've got the full text of the complaint here, if you want to read it.