If you need more incentive to persuade supervisors to stop making negative comments about employees’ ages, consider this: A jury recently awarded a fired employee more than $10 million in punitive damages for age discrimination after what may seem like fairly insignificant ageist talk.
Recent case: Timothy Morgan worked for New York Life Insurance as a highly compensated managing partner in charge of an office. The 45-year-old earned between $500,000 and $1 million per year.
Then Morgan began hearing upper ’s comments about the age of employees. He heard that the company needs “a new generation of managerial talent,” and “we need to bring young people … into our system.” Other managers decreed that the company needed a “balance of ages.”
At one point, a 64-year-old worker was told he’d “done an excellent job for a long time,” but was “a manager from the past” and time had passed him by.
It was against this background that Morgan found himself terminated just a few years before his pension would vest. That would have netted him an additional $125,000 per year throughout his retirement. Morgan sued.
A jury sided with Morgan, saying the ageist statements were evidence of age discrimination. It ordered $6 million in compensation and another $10 million in punitive damages.
The insurer appealed and got limited relief. It said the punitive damage amount should be lowered, but the employee will still collect more than $6 million in compensatory damages. (Morgan v. New York Life, No. 07-4186, 6th Cir., 2009)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- 10 Secrets to an Effective Performance Review
- Before you decide to fire, make sure past job evaluations support your rationale
- Settlement with back pay? Get your attorney involved
- Beware: You're now strictly liable for supervisor harassment
- Annual checkup: Your top 10 employment law to-do's in 2010