Despite an aggressive appeal and a motion for a new trial, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled in favor of a 57-year-old former GNC store manager who sued the vitamin company for illegally firing him because of his age. Santos Andujar was originally awarded $124,000 in back pay, $60,000 in front pay and $75,000 for emotional distress after the company fired him after he’d worked for them for 15 years and replaced him with an employee who was thirty years younger.
Andujar worked for GNC at their outlet in Vineland, New Jersey, and originally filed his age discrimination lawsuit under the rules of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination in 2014. GNC removed the case to federal court. In addition to citing his replacement by a much younger employee, he also provided evidence that the company had done so after he had upgraded his store’s success rating. GNC argued that it had lawfully fired him for poor performance and a failure to show a required level of improvement. In response to GNC’s given reasons for firing him, Andujar argued that five younger managers who had lower performance scores had not suffered the same fate. Upon hearing the evidence, the original jury sided with him and awarded him $260,000 in damages, and GNC appealed that result.
In reviewing the case, the appeals court agreed with GNC’s assertion that companies had a right to fire employees for poor performance, but agreed with the jury that the company’s stated reason had been a pretext. They wrote in part, “Companies have the right to discharge their employees for poor performance, but they can’t excuse the shortcomings of younger workers while bringing down the hammer on older workers. Consistent with that principle, Andujar emphasized that while he was one of many store managers in his region with a failing score, he was the only one placed on an action plan or fired within 30 days.”
If you have been fired or in some other way treated unfairly on the job, and you believe that the action was discriminatory, both New Jersey state law and federal law provide you with protection and justice. For information on your rights and the solutions that are available to you, contact us today to set up an appointment.