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Missouri university defending allegations of age discrimination

Almost two years after filing a civil suit, a former Lincoln University employee's lawsuit alleging age discrimination went to court in front of a Missouri jury. The plaintiff, now 63 and also a former councilman in Jefferson City, filed suit alleging age discrimination in 2013 after his position as government relations director for the university was eliminated by university administrators.

The plaintiff filed his petition after receiving a go-ahead from both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Human Rights Commission. Prior to being terminated, plaintiff had 35 years of employment with the university.

According to his testimony, his intentions were to work until the federal retirement age of 66 or even longer. Having to initiate his Social Security benefits was quite costly, the plaintiff argued. An accountant testified that only six weeks before the plaintiff was terminated, he received a raise that increased his annual salary from $63,000 to $65,000.

According to the accountant, losing his job cost the plaintiff a combined sum of almost $196,000 in benefits and income. With the reduction in the amount of Social Security benefits factored in due to his retirement at the minimum age, the accountant for the plaintiff calculated a loss of over $321,000.

The lawsuit alleges that the university discharged the man due to "his age...[and] "assigned his duties to a younger person of lesser qualification...to eliminate older workers and [their] positions."

The attorney for the university assured the jury that the plaintiff's termination was attributable only to budget cuts. However, a university vice president admitted to sending an email to LU's president that stated that two employees' positions were on the chopping block, and that while the plaintiff was eligible for retirement, the other employee was not.

Despite the cuts not being nearly as draconian as predicted, the university's chief financial officer testified that administrators "did not add anything back into the budget." Both the plaintiff and the other employee wound up losing their jobs.

Age discrimination cases can be difficult to prove and are often substantiated only by subpoenaing documents related to the case. Seek professional legal advice if you believe you have a cause of action.

Source: News Tribune, "Court hearing local man's case against LU" Bob Watson, Mar. 10, 2015

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