LaFayette official questioned in age-bias lawsuit

LaFayette official questioned in age-bias lawsuit

August 31st, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Johnnie Arnold

The city manager of LaFayette, Ga., gave a deposition Monday in a lawsuit that claims three employees were fired for being old.

Attorneys representing the former employees say department heads and other city employees could be called to give their sides of the story next week.

The lawsuit, filed in December, alleges that the termination of the three employees "was not based on reasonable factors other than age."

Ron Womack, one of the attorneys representing LaFayette, said he did not comment on pending cases but confirmed that City Manager Johnnie Arnold had complied with the court order to give his testimony.

Arnold said he could not comment when contacted Tuesday.

In the lawsuit, longtime city employees Freddie Mitchell, Richard Brooks and Johnetta McSears say they were discriminated against because of their age when the city had to trim its budget in 2009. They say the city terminated them citing economic reason, didn't consider hiring them back and hired younger employees in their former departments within a year of the firings.

"The only real criteria used to select Plaintiffs ... was their age," the suit states.

One of their attorneys said it is not coincidence that the city eliminated four of its oldest employees, all of whom were more than 55 years old. He said statistical analysis would suggest his clients were targeted.

"The statistical chances of that happening just by chance are like 0.00001," Reid said Tuesday.

Reid said one plaintiff was told he was getting fired because he couldn't keep up with computer skills. Such problems, however, never were reflected in performance evaluations and the city never offered training on the software.

"It was just kind of a sham," Reid said.

The suit seeks payment for lost earnings, compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

In a counterclaim, the city denied the allegations and filed a request that the case be dropped. The request was denied.

Court documents indicate the case will be in the discovery phase until Sept. 23. During that time, Reid said, current and former city employees will be called for depositions.