Hillary Hodge, longtime photographer for the Virgin Islands Daily News, has filed a claim of wrongful discharge against the paper.
In a suit filed in Territorial Court in December, Hodge alleges that he was terminated because of a job-related medical condition that kept him on sick leave for several months.
His suit does not describe the illness — and Hodge declined to comment on the case Monday — but sources familiar with the situation said Hodge had complained of intense pain in his shoulder from years of carrying heavy camera equipment and was treated for a pinched nerve.
Hodge worked for the Daily News for approximately 21 years and was chief photographer at the time of his separation from the paper.
The initial complaint, filed by Hodge's attorney Desmond Maynard, says Hodge was hospitalized June 29, 2000. An amended complaint lists the start of the problem as Feb. 25, 2000.
On Aug. 3, Hodge gave the Daily News a letter saying he could begin working part-time, but management told him it was full-time or nothing, according to the complaint.
He received a release from his doctor to return to work full-time on Oct. 16, the complaint states, but on Oct. 18, Daily News management told him he had already been replaced and was out of a job.
Hodge is seeking compensatory and punitive damages of an unspecified amount, and reimbursement for legal fees as well as reinstatement.
Attorney Kevin Rames filed a response earlier this month on behalf of the Daily News.
"Plaintiff's employment has not been terminated by Defendant, however at present there is no open photographer position for Plaintiff to fill," the response stated. "To the extent that Plaintiff is determined to have been discharged from his employment, such discharged (sic) is due to Plaintiff's continuous absences from his place of employment affecting the interests of his employer."

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