Jury Finds DuPont Guilty of Age Discrimination in
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
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.”