A one-time manager of a national truck manufacturing firm has been awarded $1.2 million by a jury in an age discrimination case.
But his was just one of nearly a dozen employment lawsuits brought against Daimler Trucks North America over the last few years. Last September, two $1 million lawsuits filed were brought by two different African American woman who alleged they were subjected to racially hostile work conditions. They asserted they have been targeted by co-workers since the 1990s with racially insulting graffiti, language and even threats of violence. Chicken bones would be stuffed in their lockers and nooses displayed in work areas. On top of that, supervisors reportedly constantly questioned their work and made rude comments and filed groundless complaints.
Earlier in 2015, the company agreed to pay $2.4 million to settle complaints from six former workers who alleged they were the subject of homophobic and racist slurs, threats and Nazi graffiti. The following month, four current and former African American employees filed a $9.5 million lawsuits against the firm, alleging they were greeted with “Heil Hitler” salutes, nooses and general harassment at work. Then in April 2015, an engineer, 75 and born in Egypt, filed an employment lawsuit for $2 million, saying his supervisor often made fun of him and called him “bin Laden” in front of clients and co-workers. In July 2015, an Asian American data center manager, 40, filed a $250,000 lawsuit alleging he was mistreated due to both his age and race and that promotions were given to less qualified, younger white workers while he was passed over.
Between January 2014 and September 2015, the Bureau of Labor Industries, the entity that enforces anti-discrimination laws in Oregon, reported it had received 17 complaints alleging Daimler’s minority and older workers had been the target of discrimination.
So now that brings us to the age discrimination lawsuit of the 58-year-old engineer who filed his lawsuit in October 2014, alleging he was wrongfully terminated as a result of his age after 16 years on-the-job. Attorneys for the company insisted when his job was eliminated in late 2013 that it was because of “changing priorities” and “reorganization.” However, plaintiff alleged this whole restructuring plan was a cover for the company to shed its older workers to make room for younger – i.e., less expensive – employees.
The company’s plan was part of a “pilot project” that the firm was testing out, plaintiff alleged. If it worked well, the company would start expanding it to other locations. Plaintiff planned to prove this by presenting a number of PowerPoint presentations the firm had reportedly complied on the project. However, plaintiffs alleged – and the court agreed – the company had failed to turn over those PowerPoint presentations. As a result, the court sanctioned the defense by telling jurors to strike the firm’s answers and affirmative defenses on those claims.
Company attorneys insisted it was unfair that they did not have the opportunity to defend themselves against the claims and intended to appeal.
As it now stands, the jury has awarded $1.2 million and a separate trial will be held next year to ascertain how much, if any, should be awarded in punitive damages.
Cases like this, where there are numerous complaints filed in short succession, tell us that administrators and managers fostered a certain culture in their business that proved toxic to workers who didn’t fit a certain mold. That’s not just ethically problematic – it’s illegal.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Ex-Daimler manager wins $1.2M age discrimination case, June 22, 2016, By Andy Giegerich, Portland Business Journal
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