Law.com has this report of a $6.2 million verdict in favor of two Pennsylvania scientists formerly employed by PQ Corp. Both had been terminated in a downsizing. The jury found that PQ discriminated against them because of their age.
This case illustrates things that are worth remembering, whether you are an employer or employee.
First, the jury found that PQ's discrimination against the scientists was willful. That resulted in a doubling of the back pay that they were due.
Second, the jury apparently accepted the plaintiffs' argument that PQ "cooked the books" to make it look like they were downsized for financial reasons unrelated to their age. Trial lawyers know that if a jury thinks that you're lying, they will come down hard on you. That seems to have happened here.
Third, $6.2 million is not the end of PQ's financial trouble. Motions are pending for attorney's fees, which certainly will run into six figures, and to gross up the award so that the plaintiffs do not suffer from having all of that income taxable to them in one year.
Downsizings are difficult on many levels. Companies need to be sure that their age-related analysis of the impact of the employees selected is done fairly and honestly, and not merely to justify management's desire to get rid of age-protected employees.