Severance Pay No Offset to Discrimination Damages

March 18, 2002 ( - Workers who successfully sued their former employer for age discrimination shouldn't have their money damages reduced by the severance pay they received, a Michigan federal judge ruled.

US District Court Judge Gerald Rosen of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan also let stand part of the damage award that was to have gone to one plaintiff who committed suicide.

The plaintiffs claimed that they were laid off as part of a staff reduction by Grinders for Industry, Inc., their former employer, who they said replaced them with “much younger” workers. The plaintiffs said Grinders managers had publicly stated that the company wanted younger employees.

A jury in 2001 had awarded $332,701 in pay to Richard A. Beal, $131,234 to William A. Scheib, and $167,991 to Laverne  Kulling, widow of former employee Carl G. Kulling, who killed himself two months after being fired.

Grinders for Industry  Inc., the former employer, argued that back pay awards should be reduced by the amount of their severance packages.

Because Kulling committed suicide two months after he was fired, Grinders claimed his award should be cut back. His widow argued in court that his firing was the reason he took his own life.
The former employees also sought a court order forbidding Grinders from choosing workers for firing on the basis of their ages and to report all terminations of employees over 50 to a court-appointed monitor. Rosen said that was too “far-reaching.”

The case is Kulling v. Grinders for Industry Inc., E.D.  Mich., No. 99-74339.