William Dougherty, a 40-year repairman who worked for Sears Roebuck was fired after getting into three traffic accidents even though younger employees with driving problems kept their jobs. The former employee filed an age discrimination suit and was awarded $67,200 in damages by a San Francisco, California appeals court.
The appeals court said jurors heard testimony that two younger employees who had also been in accidents were reassigned to jobs requiring no driving, and that the company, Sears, could have offered a similar job to Dougherty but instead elected to fire him.
The court found there was evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that “intentional discrimination, on the basis of age, was the true cause of Sears’ actions,” as stated by Justice James Lambden in a 3-0 decision.
“It’s gratifying to see that this Court of Appeal understands the importance of a jury trial and what it means as a check on the power of corporate America,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Lawrence Organ.
Dougherty, now a 73 year old male, was fired nine years ago after the company suspended his driving privileges because he had three traffic accidents in five years. Organ stated that all the accidents were minor collisions.
Dougherty said Sears told him the only available job was a part-time position, which he turned down because it offered no benefits. But the court said Dougherty was eligible for health benefits under federal law, and said there was evidence that a full-time non-driving job was available as well, in light of younger employees being offered this option.
We at the Harman Firm don’t applaud Appeals Courts second guessing jury determinations on important issues like age discrimination but this can happen as evidenced by this case against Sears. If you or someone you know has an age discrimination claim you would like to discuss, please contact the attorneys at the Harman Firm.