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Company discriminated against him based on age: plaintiff
Los Angeles County
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles
Employment – Age Discrimination, Workplace Harassment, Wrongful Termination
Bobby Dean Nickel v. Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc., Staples, Inc., Lionel Marrero, and Does 1 to 100,
February 26, 2014
Bobby Dean Nickel (Male, 66 Years)
Urbanic & Associates, Los Angeles, CA, of counsel, Shegerian & Associates, Inc., Santa Monica, CA;
Bobby Dean Nickel ■ Carney R. Shegerian;
Shegerian & Associates, Inc.;
Bobby Dean Nickel
Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc.
Keith A. Jacoby;
Staples, Inc., Lionel Marrero, Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc. ■ Janel R. Ablon;
Staples, Inc., Lionel Marrero, Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc.
On July 29, 2011, plaintiff Bobby Nickel, 66, a facilities manager for Staples Contract & Commercial Inc. and Staples, Inc., was terminated from his position. He claimed he was discriminated against, harassed and wrongfully terminated due to his age. Nickel sued Staples Inc., Staples Contract & Commercial Inc., and the fulfillment center manager for Staples’ La Mirada Fulfillment Center, Lionel Marrero. Nickel alleged that the defendants’ actions constituted wrongful termination and discrimination on the basis of age in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Marrero was ultimately dismissed from the case. Nickel claimed that he had previously worked for Corporate Express, which was acquired by Staples in approximately 2008 and that for nine years, he received positive job reviews. However, he claimed that he was discharged in 2011 because he was older and was a higher-paid employee, as Corporate Express’ pay scale was higher than that of the employees hired by Staples. Nickel contended that the regular harassment included him being the focus of jokes at staff meetings, and being referred to as "old coot" and "old goat." Nickel claimed that Marrero, in staff meetings, regularly said to management in front of human resources, "Take a closer look at the older people. They are starting to drag and are slowing down. If they are not top performers, write them up and get rid of them." Marrero was also alleged to have said, "We need young, energetic people. Walk around the facility with the older workers and if they cannot keep up, then get rid of them." Nickel also claimed that Marrero said, "We need to get rid of old people because they are slow. And we can get younger people to work cheaper." He further claimed that Marrero stated, "I know some of you longer-term employees have had your hours cut and are not happy about it." In addition, Nickel claimed that when referring to older employees, Marrero said, "If you want to find another job, I will give you three days paid to find another job." Nickel alleged that in June 2011, Marrero asked him when he thought he planned to retire, to which he responded, "I plan on staying here for as long as I am able to do my job and am healthy." Nickel further alleged that a series of false accusations and increasing levels of harassment from coworkers and a manager ensued, including being suspended and then terminated for allegedly taking a $0.68 bell pepper from the company cafeteria. Additionally, Nickel alleged that a receptionist told him that she was ordered by management to provide a false statement about his conduct, but that she refused to do so. Defense counsel denied there was any wrongdoing on the part of Staples. Counsel asserted Staples had reason to suspend Nickel, as Nickel’s taking of the bell pepper violated the company’s zero-tolerance policy when it came to "dishonesty of any kind, including theft or misappropriation of company property."
Nickel was hired as a facilities manager for Corporate Express on Aug. 19, 2002. He was 66 years old at the time of his termination on July 29, 2011. Nickel claimed he suffered emotional distress as a result of his treatment at Staples and his termination. Thus, Nickel sought recovery of damages for his emotional distress. He also sought recovery for his past and future economic losses. Defense counsel argued that Nickel did not suffer the damages alleged.
The jury returned a verdict for Nickel on his claim of age discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. It determined that Nickel’s damages totaled $26,107,328.
Bobby Dean Nickel: $260,000 Personal Injury: past economic loss; $603,416 Personal Injury: future economic loss; $1,600,000 Personal Injury: past non-economic loss; $800,000 Personal Injury: future non-economic loss; $13,053,664 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc.; $9,790,248 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Staples, Inc.
Mark V. Mooney
This report includes information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.