The Fired Department of San Bernadino has lost an age discrimination case at trial, being ordered to pay over $700,000 to Plaintiff in damages. Plaintiff Chief George Corley, now the Fire Chief for the Running Springs Fire Department, but age 58 at the time of his termination by San Bernardino County in February 2012, was terminated after 38 years in the fire service, including over 8 years as a Division Chief and Battalion Chief for San Bernardino County Fire. There was no record of disciplinary action during his career and he was known to be a good worker. The employer replaced plaintiff with a significantly younger Division Chief, one without any chief-officer experience.
Evidence of discriminatory tactics and discriminatory comments were presented over the course of the month-long trial that ultimately lead to this significant award:
- It was shown that Plaintiff was the oldest and highest earning division chief. He was replaced by another employee who was 10 years younger and who was not qualified for that position.
- Plaintiff’s boss reassigned him to work at another location an hour away from where he lived.
- The manager unilaterally changed the Chief position requirements in order to promote a younger employee into that position.
- Former firefighter union president testified that he was personally aware that the department’s management utilized “freeway therapy” in order to get people they didn’t want to quit or retire. He also testified that after Plaintiff’s manager had reassigned Plaintiff to work further away from home, that manager complained to the union president that he was frustrated that Plaintiff was refusing to retire.
The manager also told the union president that he had had a conversation with Plaintiff about retiring, and after Plaintiff told him he couldn’t retire because his daughter was still in school, the manager stated, “does he expect me to raise his daughter! ” Shortly after this conversation Plaintiff was terminated without any reason being given. Later, the employer came up with a different and inconsistent termination reasons which made them look even worse at trial than they otherwise would.This case is an example of the critical importance of witnesses of discriminatory statements in an age discrimination case. A union shop steward or a union president can often be a source of invaluable evidence supporting a discrimination and wrongful termination case, and they should be contacted as soon as possible to obtain such an evidence at the time of making a case.