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Jury Finds DuPont Guilty of Age Discrimination in Hiring


 In a case that will have implications for hiring older workers, a jury this week [on December 5, 2014] awarded a Memphis man $100,000 in damages after finding DuPont guilty of age discrimination.
            The jury found that DuPont, which operates a chemical plant in Millington, discriminated against Dennis Vawter because of his age when it failed to hire him in July 2012. 
            At the time Vawter applied for the position at DuPont, he was 59.  He had worked for over 37 1/2 years at Velsicol Chemical plant as a chemical operator in Memphis.  He only lost his job at Velsicol because it closed in December 2011. 
 Vawter found out that one of his former co-workers, who had also lost his job in the Velsicol plant closing, got hired for the DuPont position instead of him.  Knowing that the individual was in his early thirties and had much less chemical operator experience than he did, Vawter sued for age discrimination.
“I am so glad a working person can still fight a giant corporation in our country and win,” said Vawter on Friday. The circuit court jury reached a decision late Wednesday.
The Tennessee Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in hiring because of an applicant’s race, sex, national origin, religion or age.  
            After the lawsuit was filed, Vawter discovered through company records that DuPont had hired a total of 12 men for the general operator position in July 2012.  All of the new hires were much younger than he was, most in their early thirties, and most had little or no chemical operator experience before being hired.
            “I am convinced 90 percent of age discrimination cases never get prosecuted in hiring because they never find out who’s hired,” said Vawter’s attorney, Dan Norwood. The state law doesn’t require employers to tell prospective employees why they are not hired or who was hired instead of them.
            The jury awarded Vawter $100,000 in damages to compensate him for the pay losses, as well as the mental distress, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life, he suffered as a result of that discrimination. 
A second hearing will be held later this month before Circuit Judge Robert L. Childers who could now order DuPont to hire Vawter as a general operator and start paying him $68,000 in an annual salary it currently pays other workers in that position or provide for front pay. The judge can also require the company to pay Vawter the attorney fees and expenses he incurred to take his claim to court.
           “This jury verdict will send a message that our state laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring mean what they say and will be enforced,” Norwood said. He said the award not only compensates Vawter for the past harms he suffered but provides him with a better paying job he was denied in 2012. 
            Norwood added, “Age discrimination in hiring is rampant in our country today and will only get worse as more and more of the Baby Boomer generation enter their fifties and sixties, lose their jobs in cutbacks and plant closings and have to enter a very competitive job market only to discover that some employers have a bias against hiring older applicants.”





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