A U.S. District Court jury has found that Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) “willfully and unlawfully retaliated against a former employee in violation of the Age Discrimination Employee Act (ADEA).” The jury awarded Rudolph Karlo $922,060. He can also seek attorneys’ fees.
In 2009, PGW trimmed approximately 100 employees from its workforce. Karlo and several other former employees filed a class action complaint against PGW in 2010 after they were terminated. Several employees, all in their 50s, say there was “discrimination against [PGW’s] older workforce,” according to the court documents.
The judge for the U.S. District Court, in the Western Pennsylvania division, issued a summary judgment in favor of PGW saying the class action could not go forward. However, the judge did allow Count 3 of the complaint to proceed to trial. This count included the retaliation claims by Karlo and former PGW employee Mark McLure. The judge ordered separate trials.
Karlo began working for PPG Industries Inc. in 1978. PPG’s automotive glass division was the predecessor to PGW.
In 2008, PPG began negotiations with Kohlberg & Co., which led to a joint venture agreement. PPG retained a 40 percent ownership interest in automotive glass and Kohlberg acquired the remaining 60 percent ownership interest. In November 2008, PPG and Kohlberg established a jointly owned successor entity—PGW.
“Throughout his more than 30-year career with PPG and/or PGW, Mr. Karlo received consistently positive performance reviews, commendations and awards, commensurate increases to his salary, bonuses (known at PPG as “Personal Performance Grants”) and multiple promotions,” his attorney says in court documents.
Karlo became a senior engineering specialist for the company in 2001.
In March 2009, Karlo was terminated from the company as part of a reduction in force. He was 51. He filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Less than six months after he was terminated, the human resource manager for PGW’s Creighton facility called Karlo to see if he would be interested in returning to work as a temporary employee, according to court documents. Once PGW and Karlo reached an agreement, the human resource manager made an arrangement for a subcontractor to hire him, says Karlo’s attorney. He was made a shift maintenance supervisor on the PGW windshield production lines and then reassigned as a production supervisor in charge of windshield line 1 at the plant.
“In the last week of June 2010, after Mr. Karlo finished delivering a routine summary of shift activities to his supervisor, Tom Showers, and another PGW manager, Bob Pinchok, Mr. Karlo was approached by Pinchok who indicated that he wanted to talk to Mr. Karlo about an important issue. Pinchok informed Mr. Karlo that PGW wanted to retain him as a production supervisor, perhaps even as a direct employee at PGW, but that ‘there is an issue out there that needs to go away.’ When Mr. Karlo attempted to ask Pinchok whether he was referring to his EEOC charge, which had been filed less than six months earlier and was then still pending before the agency, Pinchok would only say that Karlo knew ‘what issue [he was] referring to,’ and that Karlo just needed to ‘make the whole thing go away,’” according to court documents.
About a week after he was approached, the plant manager informed him he was being terminated by PGW, says Karlo’s attorney.
This was a violation of the Federal Age Discrimination Employee Act, says Karlo’s attorney in court documents.
The jury found that PGW “willfully” violated the law, which meant doubling damages.
Former employee McLure, who also complained of retaliation by the company, has entered a settlement with the company. This trial has been canceled. No details of the settlement were disclosed.
The former employees, including Karlo, seeking class action status have appealed the lower court’s decision to the appellate level.
PGW officials offered “no comment” regarding the jury’s decision. The company has not indicated if it will appeal the decision.
To view the amended complaint filed by Karlo, click here.
To view PGW’s pretrial statement, click here.
To view the jury’s verdict, click here.