PGW Counterclaim Against Former Employee Partially Upheld/Dismissed in Age Discrimination Suit
March 8, 2011

A federal court in Pennsylvania has partially upheld a Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) counterclaim against former employee James D. Freeman in an age discrimination suit filed late last year following a motion to dismiss filed by the plaintiff. Freeman, who alleges that the company violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act when it terminated his employment in 2008, had motioned to dismiss the company’s counterclaim in early-February.

In the counterclaim, PGW alleged that Freeman had breached his contract (and specifically, his separation agreement) with the company by filing the age discrimination suit. This part of the counterclaim was dismissed, as the court ruled that PGW’s “claim for breach of contract is based upon an invalid release clause and because discovery could not produce any evidence to cure such a defect.”

However, PGW’s counterclaim of “unjust enrichment” was upheld and will continue in the case. In the counterclaim, PGW alleges that it provided Freeman with various benefits, including dental, life, accidental death and dismemberment insurance for at least 12 months after his termination, and that such benefits were provided with the “expectation that he would refrain from instituting any lawsuit of the sort that has been initiated in this matter.”

“When taken as true, as required in a Motion to Dismiss, defendants’ factual averments support a claim for unjust enrichment,” writes U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab in his recent order. “

Schwab adds, “Furthermore, [PGW’s] counterclaim for unjust enrichment may be properly brought even though the contract may be found invalid.”

Freeman, 62, filed the suit in November. He had worked for the company in various positions for eight years, between 2000 and 2008, and claims to have consistently received positive performance reviews up until his termination in July 2008—and says he was let go “without notice or warning,” and was told that his position was being eliminated.

Freeman had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prior to filing suit, and is seeking reasonable monetary damages, a judgment for liquidated damages, costs and attorneys' fees, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, and "awards such other and further legal and equitable relief as may be found appropriate."

This is the second of two federal suits filed in recent months alleging age discrimination against the Pittsburgh-based auto glass manufacturer. On September 30, 2010, seven former PGW employees also filed a suit against the company alleging that they were let go in March 2009 due to age discrimination. The company had filed a similar counterclaim in that suit as well in early December, and a hearing currently is scheduled for March 23.

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