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ARKANSAS AGE-DISCRIMINATION AWARD OF $484,443 IS UPHELD.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an Arkansas jury's award of $484,443 plus attorney fees to a former employee of Dillard's who accused the department store chain of age discrimination.

In Hartley v. Dillard's, Inc. (02-1298), plaintiff Dorman Hartley was 64 and manager of the store in North Little Rock in August 1999 when the chain terminated him and replaced him with a 32-year-old manager.

Dillard's said the reason was the store's sales and profits had been declining since 1995 and Hartley was unable to meet goals set for him. But Hartley sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, claiming the motive was pretextual.

Hartley produced an expert witness who testified malls were losing market share all over the nation to discount-store chains and "big box" free-standing warehouse-retail chains like Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot.

He also produced witnesses who quoted one of Hartley's supervisors as making statements suggesting age played a role in the decision to fire Hartley - specifically directing an employee to "go out and hire some young guys" - and offered evidence other managers weren't fired over declining profits.

A jury found in favor of Hartley and decided Dillard's acted willfully, awarding him back pay of $237,669, front pay of $246,774 and attorney fees and costs of $65,269.

Dillard's appealed, but the Eighth Circuit said the district court didn't abuse its discretion or make a harmful error by instructing the jury it could find for Hartley if age was "a determinative factor" rather than "the determinative factor" in the decision to terminate him.
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Publication:Liability & Insurance Week
Date:Nov 25, 2002
Words:264
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