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A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's rejection of $15 million in punitive damages in an age discrimination case against Raytheon Co.
Richard Miller had worked for Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon or a predecessor company for almost three decades in a variety of roles, primarily in supply chain management, when he was terminated in a reduction in force in 2008 at the age of 53, according to Thursday's ruling in Richard Miller v. Raytheon Co. by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
He was unable to find another job at Raytheon.
He sued the weapons and electronics manufacturer for age discrimination, and a U.S. District Court jury in Dallas awarded him $15 million in punitive damages, $1 million for mental anguish, $352,000 in back pay and $277,000 in lost pension benefits, with the back pay and pension benefits doubled as liquidated damages under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The trial court denied Raytheon’s motion for a new trial, but reduced the $15 million punitive damages award to $300,000; lowered the $1 million mental anguish award to $100,000; approved the liquidated damages and pension awards; and awarded him $187,000 in front pay.
Both parties appealed.
In denying Raytheon’s motion for a new trial, a three-judge appeals court panel said Mr. Miller was told not to apply for jobs in supply chain management, and not selected for a new job at Raytheon despite its policy of searching “every corner of the earth” and “exhausting all opportunities to place the individual” before releasing an employee in a reduction in force.
“Although Raytheon emphasizes that these actions occurred after Miller’s termination, the jury was entitled to view them as circumstantial evidence of discriminating,” the appeals court ruled unanimously.
“Further, Miller presented evidence that at least two similarly skilled younger employees (age 34 and 46) were not terminated despite being eligible” for the reduction in force. “In totality, this and other evidence adduced by Miller is sufficient for the jury to disbelieve Raytheon’s argument that Miler was treated the same as younger employees.”
However, the appeals court panel upheld the reduction of the punitive damages award, saying that the lower court properly applied the noneconomic damage cap under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The appeals court also vacated the pension benefits award because it said it was a future, not a past, loss and vacated the mental anguish award.
However, it did remand the front pay award to the Dallas federal court for reconsideration in light of its ruling on the pension and mental anguish awards.