A race discrimination suit against the Philadelphia affiliate of Fox News has forced a federal judge to tackle the question of whether uttering an incendiary racial epithet may be considered worse when spoken by a white employee than if it were said by someone of the targeted racial group.

“This case presents unique issues regarding an employer’s liability under Title VII for cultural assumptions about a word that is considered by many to be the most offensive in the English language,” U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick wrote in his 37-page opinion in Burlington v. News Corp.

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