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Disabled Sportswriter Sidelined

GALLUP, N.M. (CN) - The Gallup Independent newspaper fired a sportswriter with a prosthetic foot because the paper's owner and publisher told him, falsely, that he could no longer "walk the sidelines," the reporter claims in court.

Eugene Foster the Gallup Independent and its owner-publisher Robert Zollinger in McKinley County Court, alleging disability discrimination and wrongful termination.

Foster has worked at the Independent as a sports writer since 2006. Five months after his foot was amputated due to complications of diabetes, his doctors OK's his return to work.

Foster says his supervisors agreed that he could work from home for the few weeks until his prosthesis was ready. But a few days later, he got a message that Zollinger wanted to speak to him.

Foster claims that Zollinger told him: "I need someone that can walk the sidelines and report sports. You are not the one to walk the sidelines and report the sports. You are a risk to the company."

Zollinger asked where Foster's surgery had been performed, and when Foster told him, "Zollinger said disparagingly, 'Indian hospital and Navajo doctor,'" according to the complaint.

Since then, Foster says, neither Zollinger nor the newspaper have responded to his inquiries.

He seeks lost wages and benefits, and damages for discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Timothy White, with Valdez and White, of Albuquerque.

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