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2 Scientists Get $6.2 M Award in Age Discrimination Suit

A federal jury awarded more than $6.2 million in an age discrimination suit brought by two scientists who said they were fired from their jobs at a Chester County, Pa., chemical manufacturing firm when the company targeted only older workers in layoffs in 2005.

The jury concluded that PQ Corp.’s age discrimination was “willful” — a finding that leads to an automatic doubling of each plaintiff’s back pay award. The jury also awarded compensatory damages — $2 million to plaintiff Roman Wypart and $1.5 million to plaintiff Bonnie Marcus — for the emotional damage they suffered as a result of the discrimination.

Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Scott B. Goldshaw said he was “gratified that the jury recognized that age discrimination is real and hurts real people.”

The weeklong trial in Marcus v. PQ Corp. was the second trial in the case. The first trial, in July, resulted in a hung jury on the claims for three plaintiffs and a rejection of the fourth plaintiff’s claims. Prior to the second trial, court records show, PQ settled for an undisclosed sum with plaintiff Ernest Senderov.

In court papers, PQ’s lawyers argued that all of the layoffs were justified by reasons completely unrelated to age.

The plaintiffs attorneys argued that PQ was manipulating its budget figures to justify layoffs in which every terminated worker was 55 or older. A proper analysis of the same evidence, they said, showed that some of the younger workers should also have been considered for layoffs.

In its verdict, the jury found that age was the “but for cause” of PQ’s decision to lay off both Marcus and Wypart.

Marcus, 65, was awarded more than $667,000 in back pay; more than $670,000 in front pay; and $1.5 million in compensatory damages. After the back pay award is doubled, Marcus’ total award is more than $3.5 million.

Wypart, 61, was awarded nearly $190,000 in back pay; more than $375,000 in front pay; and $2 million in compensatory damages, for a total award of more than $2.7 million after the doubling of the back pay award.

Goldshaw said the total judgment against PQ Corp. could swell significantly because the plaintiffs will also be seeking an attorney fee award in the six-figure range, as well as prejudgment interest and an enhancement of the plaintiffs’ awards to compensate for the negative tax consequences of receiving the money in a lump sum.

Court records show that the lawyers waged numerous pretrial battles over which evidence would be admitted at trial, especially over age-biased statements allegedly made by top PQ Corp. managers.

The plaintiffs lost their motion to present testimony that Colleen Del Monte, a PQ manager and key decision-maker in the layoff decisions, had allegedly expressed the view that the company needed “to get rid of some of these old farts.”

Defense attorneys Elizabeth A. Malloy and Peter J. Ennis of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney successfully argued that the alleged quote should be precluded from evidence because the only witness who could testify to it was a man who heard it in a “whisper-down-the-lane” fashion and that such triple hearsay is never admissible.

Goldshaw had argued that the quote should be allowed because every one of the speakers in the alleged hearsay chain was a PQ manager whose statements are considered admissions, and because the quote was being offered to prove not the truth of the statement but only the state of mind of each of the speakers who quoted Del Monte.

But Goldshaw won several other evidentiary battles over alleged biased statements, including one over a PQ manager’s admission in her deposition that she had been told that the company wanted “young blood” to replace one of her subordinates, and that she understood the remark as a suggestion to violate age discrimination laws.

If you or a family member has been subjected to wrongful termination or employment discrimination, then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Employment Discrimination Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.

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