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Los Angeles jury awards $26 million to man fired from Staples

Most all of us grew up being taught to respect our elders. However, a man who won $26 million in a lawsuit against the office supply store Staples says he was called names like "old goat" and "old coot" in the workplace.

The plaintiff had worked for Corporate Express, which was later bought by Staples, for nine years when he was fired in 2011 at age 64. During that time, he received good reviews for his work as a facilities manager, according to his suit, which he filed two years ago in Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit contends that Staples, which acquired Corporate Express in 2008, wanted to get rid of employees they inherited via the acquisition because the pay, particularly for the older employees, was higher than Staples' wages.

The plaintiff says that he was asked to resign by a supervisor, but refused. That's when the harassment and false accusations reportedly started and then escalated. One employee, according to the suit, was told to lie about the plaintiff's conduct, but refused. The plaintiff says that he was regularly teased during staff meetings about his age. He was at one point suspended for allegedly stealing a bell pepper from the cafeteria. The company contended that they have a policy of zero tolerance for "dishonesty of any kind, including theft or misappropriation of company property."

The L.A. jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him what his attorney says is the largest amount ever for this type of case in L.A. County. The $26 million includes punitive damages of almost $23 million and compensatory damages of over $3 million. The plaintiff's attorney, who called his client a "hard working" and "ethical," says he hopes the jury verdict and the award will "hopefully put employers on notice that they cannot discriminate against employees based on age."

Source: Los Angeles Daily News, "66-year-old man awarded $26 million in age discrimination lawsuit against Staples" No author given, Feb. 27, 2014

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