$200K Age Discrimination Jury Award Revived

February 13, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal appellate court has reversed a lower court decision that threw out a $200,000 age discrimination jury award and ordered the verdict and award reinstated.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee had improperly overruled the jury verdict after asserting that plaintiff Patricia Tuttle had not proven discrimination because of her age.

In its reading of the evidence, the appellate court concluded that Tuttle had presented enough evidence that a jury could have reasonably found that age discrimination and retaliation motivated the employer’s action in disciplining and then ultimately firing Tuttle from her job with the Department of Public Works for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Tuttle claimed during the June 2005 trial that a younger employee was at least temporarily given her duties, that her supervisor gave conflicting reasons for delaying a negative performance evaluation while completing other employees’ evaluations and that a variety of arguably age-biased comments were made toward her.    For example, according to court documents, Tuttle’s former supervisor, allegedly said to her in February 2001, “How old are you? . . . You will be retiring quicker than you think.”

Tuttle was in her 60s when she was transferred to a less desirable job as part of the dispute, according to the court documents.

To support her claim that she was retaliated against for the December 2001 filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint, Tuttle pointed to the evidence of a Human Resources representative’s warning, immediately following the EEOC filing, that she could be evaluated poorly or terminated if she did not transfer out of her department.

She later sued in federal district court, claiming a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The 6th Circuit ruling in Tuttle v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 6th Cir., Nos. 05-6055, 05-6471 (Jan. 18, 2007) is  here.