In this day and age, it is out with the old and in with the new. Who doesn’t want the newest iPad or HD TV? But, should the same logic apply when companies attempt to get rid of an older employee? How about when that employee is fulfilling his/her job expectations? In what has been suggested as the largest award in Los Angeles legal history, Bobby Nickel, age 66, was awarded $26 million by a jury that found he was discriminated against and harassed based on his age by his supervising managers at Staples. Bobby Nickel was hired by Corporate Express in 2002 as a facilities manager. In 2008, Corporate Express was acquired by Staples Contract and Staples Inc and Bobby Nickel lost his job in 2011, age 64.
For the nine years that Bobby was employed he received positive job reviews, according to his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, that was filed March 2012. In the complaint, Nickel stated that he was a regular butt of jokes at staff meetings and would be referred to as “old coot” or “old goat”. Along with being ridiculed, the pay scale for the employees that were hired by Corporate Express was higher than the employees hired by Staples and Nickel alleged in his complaint that his mangers wanted to discharge older and higher paid employees. Boddy Nickel refused to resign and later endured a series of false accusations and harassment. One incident in particular, Mr. Nickel was suspended for taking a bell pepper from the company cafeteria, that was worth 68 cents.
The defense attorneys negated any wrongdoing on behalf of Staples and that Bobby suffered the damages he claimed. Stating, that is was a violation of the company’s zero-tolerance policy when taking the bell pepper. According to the lawsuit, a receptionist was ordered by management to provide a false statement about Nickel’s conduct and she refused to do so. Carney Shegerian, Mr. Nickel’s lawyer, “It’s been a privilege to have had the opportunity to represent Mr. Nickel… This verdict and the justice served will hopefully put employers on notice that they cannot discriminate against employees based on age.” All in all, the panel awarded Mr. Nickel $3.2 million in compensatory damages and more than $22.8 million in punitive damages.