The Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled in favor of Bobby Nickel, now 66 years old, and a former employee of Staples Inc. In a lawsuit against the office supply mogul, Nickel alleged age discrimination as the motivation for his wrongful termination.
Nickel began working for Corporate Express in 2002 as a facilities manager. In 2008, Corporate Express was bought out by Staples Inc., and everything changed for Nickel. Up until the buyout, Nickel had nothing but glowing, positive reviews. But now, he was getting written up for minor infractions and subjected to various comments about his age.
The plaintiff claimed that Staples managers were intent on phasing out older employees who were high wage earners. First, Nickel's supervisor attempted to coerce Nickel to resign. When he refused, his co-workers and other staff began harassing him and taunting his age. He was often referred to as an “old goat” or “old coot.” On one occasion, a reception alerted Nickel that a manager had approached her and asked her to provide a false statement condemning Nickel. She refused.
Nickel was eventually terminated for “stealing a 68 cent bell pepper” from the Staples cafeteria. Staples claimed that “stealing” the bell pepper violated their zero-tolerance theft policy.
Last month, the jury deliberated for 2 days, ending in a more than $26 million judgment in favor of Nickel. $22.8 million was awarded in the form of punitive damages with an additional $3.2 million for compensatory damages. Staples plans to appeal.
Source: LA Daily News