6 words turned age bias lawsuit into a $922K payout

management, retaliation, harassment

A western PA-based employer probably regrets that one of its managers uttered just six words to a shift supervisor. 
The manager approached Rudolph Karlo, who’d been brought in through a subcontractor, and said Karlo would be considered for a full-time position if he “made the whole thing go away.”
The “thing” the manager was referring to was an age discrimination lawsuit Karlo filed against the employer, Pittsburgh Glass Works.

Laid off after change in ownership

Prior to the manager’s comment, Karlo was an engineering specialist and production line supervisor for the company until March of 2009.
It was at that time, which was shortly after a reshuffling of company ownership, Karlo and about 100 other workers were terminated as part of a company-wide workforce reduction, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Karlo and six other men in their 50s reacted by filing an age discrimination lawsuit. The suit claimed Pittsburgh Glass Works was populating production facilities with younger workers at the expense of older workers.
Then, in the fall of 2009, Karlo was rehired through a subcontractor to work at one of the company’s plants in East Deer, PA, as a shift maintenance supervisor.
According to the Post-Gazette’s report, several months later Karlo was approached by the manager, who said Karlo would be considered for a full-time gig if he’d “make the whole thing go away.”
Karlo didn’t drop the age bias suit, and he was fired weeks after the comment was made to him.
He then tacked a retaliation charge onto his discrimination lawsuit.

Jury awards him $900K

Now here’s the kick in the pants for Pittsburgh Glass Works: A court tossed Karlo’s discrimination lawsuit when the company won summary judgment in regards to his age bias charges — thus significantly marginalizing the manager’s incentive to ever ask Karlo to “make the whole thing go away” (it’s likely the employer still got a whopping legal bill).
But since the manager spoke up, a federal court jury ruled the company had willfully violated federal anti-retaliation law when it terminated him the second time for failing to drop the age bias charges.
And because it was deemed a willful violation of the law, the court ruled the company was liable for double the damages due for lost wages on Karlo’s retaliation claims.
Pittsburgh Glass Works’ tab: $922,060, according to the Post-Gazette. And that’s not counting the company’s defense fees and Karlo’s attorney fees, which it must pay as well.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the legal fight still isn’t over for the company. Karlo and five of the original plaintiffs are appealing the age bias ruling. Stay tuned.