Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ageism Suit Results in Houston MDV

I have been lagging in posting MDV's lately, with a slew of reports sitting in "draft stage", but one close to home always gets my attention, like today's headline in the Houston Chronicle, Ex-manufacturing manager wins ageism lawsuit. Actually, the story doesn't give the exact amount of the verdict but says it was "nearly $1 million" and with legal fees expected to push close to $1.5 million.

Some of the evidence was the kind that frequently crops up in age cases:
  • termination of what the plaintifff Gaines Watkins referred to as "older and experienced workers" (although as the company pointed out over 50% of the company's workforce was laid off in a two to three year period);
  • Watkins also recalled comments he heard from top company officials that seemed to indicate they preferred younger workers; and
  • the jury also saw company documents describing executives as wanting "good young leadership" and detailing ways to attract employees who can "grow and change.

Having recently been involved in a couple of cases where two separate magistrates commented on the state of disarray in the 5th Circuit jurisprudence on "stray remarks, it strikes me that this is a potential candidate to provide some clarification. Although nothing mandates that the doctrine be limited to age cases, it seems that is where it comes up most frequently.

One other item mentioned in the article was the fact that plaintiff had been offered a severance package with a release. If a jury relied on that as evidence of wrong doing, then many employers could be in for rough sledding in future trials, as that is a staple in almost any reduction in force.


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