Remember this guy?
Former sports columnist T.J. Simers sued the Los Angeles Times for age and disability discrimination, among other things, when he quit his job in 2013. The Times had allegedly demoted him (although with no cut in his salary in excess of $200,000 a year) when he was 63 years old and after he’d allegedly suffered a mini-stroke.
We had limited news reports this far east, but based on what I knew, I didn’t think his case should have gone to trial.
A Los Angeles County jury begged to differ, and awarded him $7.1 million in November. The Times said it would appeal.
This week, on post-trial motions by the Times, the same judge who presided over the trial vacated the entire $7.1 million verdict. He said that Mr. Simers failed to prove “constructive discharge.” (A “constructive discharge” occurs when an employer deliberately makes working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign.) A demotion is a bummer, the judge said, but not legally “intolerable” enough to amount to a constructive discharge.
On Monday, the judge first knocked out the more than $2 million awarded to Mr. Simers in past and future economic damages because Mr. Simers hadn’t been discharged, and hadn’t even had a cut in pay, and therefore hadn’t been economically damaged. Then, on Tuesday, the judge knocked out the remaining approximately $5 million in non-economic damages, saying that it was impossible to determine how much of that was awarded because of the jury’s erroneous belief that Mr. Simers had been discharged. (I don’t have a copy of the paperwork from Tuesday, but I’ll post it as soon as I can get it.)
The judge did say that there was enough evidence of age and disability discrimination to go to the jury, so a jury will have to re-decide what damages, if any, Mr. Simers gets for a “discriminatory” demotion that involved no reduction in his pay. Not good news for Mr. Simers.
The new trial is likely to be a long way off, though. The LA Times plans to appeal the part of the judge’s ruling dealing with the discrimination claims, and surely Mr. Simers will appeal everything else.
I guess the fat lady hasn’t sung just yet.
What’s that? You say you’d like to read my prior posts on Mr. Simers? Here ya go:
Robin Shea is a Partner with the law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and has more than 20 years’ experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act), the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act; and class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage-hour laws; defense of audits by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs; and labor relations. She conducts training for human resources professionals, management, and employees on a wide variety of topics.