Jury Awards $20 Million in Age Discrimination Suit

July 20, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A jury awarded $20 million to 85 year old Dr. Robert Johnson who claimed he was forced to retire as chief physician and surgeon from Lancaster state prison because of his age, the LA Times reports.

Johnson was asked to voluntarily retire in 2001 and refused. According to the Times, his supervisors then complained to the state Medical Board that Johnson suffered short term memory problems that affected his work. The Board investigated and cleared Johnson of those claims.

Lawyers for the state’s Department of Corrections said that the Medical Board investigation and requiring Johnson to complete a fitness test were not examples of age discrimination. According to the Times report, Johnson’s lawyer pointed out that in August of 2001 he was called into a meeting that began with a colleague asking, “Dr. Johnson, you’re over 80 years old, why are you still working?”

The jury found that Johnson’s supervisors were guilty of age discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, the newspaper said. Part of the $20 million was a $1.6 million award for past and future lost earnings. Johnson’s lawyer said the Medical Board examination makes him not hirable now even though he was cleared because every application asks if the applicant has ever been investigated by the Board.

The state’s Department of Corrections plans to appeal the case.