A Los Angeles Superior Court jury hit the “Easy” button and ordered Staples, Inc., the office supply chain, to pay $26 million in damages in an age discrimination case.
Bobby Nickel., 66, was hired in 2002 to work as a facilities manager for Corporate Express. He had positive employment evaluations until 2008, when the company was purchased by Staples Inc. Nickel said Corporate Express’ pay scale was higher than the pay scale for employees hired by Staples.
Nickel said he was a victim of age discrimination and wrongful termination by Staples managers who were intent upon pushing out older workers who earned higher salaries.
The jury deliberated for two days before awarding Nickel $22.8 million in punitive damage and $3.2 million in compensatory damages on February 27.
Nickel alleged that Staple’s used the following tactics to run him out of his job as a facilities manager:
- A supervisor prompted Nickel to resign.
- Nickel said he was disciplined for a series of minor infractions.
- He suffered increasing levels of harassment from co-workers and a manager; was the regular butt of jokes at staff meetings; and was referred to as “old coot” and “old goat.”
- A receptionist told Nickel that she was ordered by management to provide a false statement about Nickel’s conduct but that she refused to do so.
Nickel was suspended and fired in 2011 when he was 64 years of age for allegedly stealing a 68-cent bell pepper from the Staples cafeteria. Nickel said he intended to pay for the bell pepper through an honor system set up by the cafeteria vendor. However, Staples said the taking of the bell pepper violated the company’s zero-tolerance policy when it came to “dishonesty of any kind, including theft or misappropriation of company property.”
A Staples spokesman said the company disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal.