Drivers, forklift operators win $17.7 million in age-bias suit

Six Los Angeles-area soda company employees will share a whopping $17.7 million in damages awarded after they successfully sued the Dr Pepper Snapple Group and related companies for age discrimination.

They claimed that management illegally downgraded the performance reviews of older truck drivers and forklift operators, and assigned them to harder jobs, hoping they would be injured or quit.

In their suit, the workers claimed that a senior manager remarked that they need “new blood” and referred to facilities staffed by older man­agers as “retirement communities.” According to the workers, HR either ignored or denied their complaints.

A jury found that Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Cadbury Schweppes Bottling Group and the American Bottling Co. wrongfully discriminated against five of the six workers on the basis of age and failed to prevent discrimination based on age in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The jury also ruled against Ameri­­can Bottling Co. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group on constructive discharge in violation of public policy, for allegedly requiring a manager to discriminate against older drivers. They were also found to have failed to reasonably accommodate one driver’s disability.

The jury awarded punitive damages to the workers in amounts ranging from $1.2 million to more than $2 million. Back pay awards ranged from $44,000 to $144,000. Damages for past and future pain and suffering were awarded in amounts ranging from $800,000 to $1 million each.