55-Year-Old Manager Fired Days After He Complained About Age Discrimination; Awarded $675,000 Judgment
DENVER - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) won another victory in federal court in Denver on Feb. 27 in its employment discrimination lawsuit against major communications equipment retailer RadioShack. Judge Lewis Babcock entered a judgment for a variety of relief, including back pay in accordance with a September jury verdict, liquidated damages, front pay, and an additional award to offset the increased taxes that will be incurred as a result of receiving the entire award in a lump sum of approximately $675,000.
According to the EEOC's suit, in the fall of 2007, David Nelson, then 55, had been employed for more than 25 years when RadioShack assigned a new, 43-year-old regional manager to supervise him. Within four months of the new supervisor's arrival at the regional office in Denver, Nelson, who had a spotless performance record, was placed on two "performance improvement plans." Nelson believed that he was being discriminated against by his new supervisor because of his age and he complained to the human resources department about the discrimination. Within five days of the first complaint, and before the period for assessing the improvement in his performance had expired, RadioShack fired Nelson in retaliation for his discrimination complaint.
The lawsuit, EEOC v. RadioShack, Civil Action #10-cv-02365, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, charged age discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In September, 2012, a Denver jury awarded Nelson $187,706 in back pay on the retaliation claim and found that this conduct by RadioShack was willful. On February 27, 2013, Federal Court Judge Lewis T. Babcock held an evidentiary hearing on the EEOC's motion seeking front pay in lieu of reinstatement, as well as an award to offset the increased tax burden that Nelson will face as a result of receiving the entire judgment in a lump sum. Judge Babcock ruled that Nelson was entitled to liquidated damages of $187,706, front pay damages of $199,470, and an additional $101,657 to offset the increased tax burden. In total, the judgment is for $674,938.
"The Commission is dedicated to the enforcement of all the anti-discrimination laws and, if necessary, will try the cases," said EEOC General Counsel Patrick Lopez. "This is the latest in a series of Commission trial victories nationwide."
Rita Kittle, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC's Denver Field Office, who tried the case for the EEOC, said, "It is particularly important for the EEOC to vigorously enforce the anti-retaliation provisions in the employment discrimination laws. If employees do not feel comfortable coming forward when they feel they are being discriminated against, the very purpose of the anti-discrimination statutes is eviscerated."
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney William (Bill) Moench, who tried the case with Kittle, added, "We are heartened that the jury saw RadioShack's retaliatory behavior for what it was, and that Judge Babcock was willing to award damages over and above the back pay loss so that Mr. Nelson can be made whole, and be able to look forward to some semblance of the retirement plans he had before he was fired."
According to company information, Fort Worth-based RadioShack employs 32,000 people globally. RadioShack's retail network includes approximately 4,700 company-operated stores in the United States and Mexico, 1,500 wireless phone centers in the United States, and approximately 1,100 dealers and other outlets worldwide.
In fiscal year 2012, the EEOC received 37,836 charges alleging retaliation. This constituted 38.1% of the total number of charges, the highest percentage for retaliation charges in history, and the largest number of any basis for a discrimination charge.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov