Jon Campisi Aug. 22, 2011, 10:12am

Two New Jersey women who claim they were terminated from their respective positions as advertising sales representatives for a greater Philadelphia area newspaper chain are suing the company, alleging their firings were age-related.

Pennsylvania attorneys Ellen M. McDowell and Elissa Westbrook Smith, of the firm McDowell Riga Posternock, filed the federal job discrimination lawsuit Aug. 18 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Melody Henderson of Willingboro, N.J. and Tina Hrinko of Lawrenceville, N.J.

The defendants named in the complaint are Horsham, Pa.-based Calkins Media, Inc., doing business as Greater Philadelphia Media, and Cathy Clark, who is listed as the company’s director of advertising.

The company owns and operates The Intelligencer, the Courier Times and the Burlington County Times, as well as the website

Henderson, the suit states, was 59 years old and had been working in the newspaper business for three decades at the time of her Sept. 27, 2010 firing, supposedly for performance related reasons.

Hrinko was 48 and had been working in the newspaper advertising business for 26 years at the time of her termination in mid November 2010.

Henderson, who worked for the Burlington County Times, a local daily paper in Burlington, N.J., which was acquired by Calkins Media in 2008 or 2009, claims she always came close to meeting her sales goals, often earning monthly bonuses, the lawsuit claims. In April 2010, however, she was, without warning, moved from the real estate sales department to the call center department, believed to be the most challenging sales area of the newspaper business.

In late June 2010, Henderson received correspondence from superiors that her sales were too low, and that she was incorrectly entering advertising language into the computer, the suit states.

Henderson explained that her sales were low because longtime clients of hers were given to a new, younger employee, the lawsuit states. Furthermore, Henderson claims she was not given adequate training upon her transfer to the new department, resulting in her alleged production issues.

On Sept. 27, 2010, Henderson was fired for alleged low production.

Hrinko, who worked for the Intelligencer, a local daily in Bucks County, Pa. owned by defendant Calkins Media, claims she always had good employer reviews since she started with the paper in 1984, the lawsuit states. She, too, worked in the call center and often earned bonuses for her sales figures.

According to the complaint, Hrinko for years worked under a man who was terminated at age 60 and replaced by a younger worker. Ever since her termination, Hrinko “began to be treated unfairly when compared with younger employees under similar circumstances.”

Eventually, Hrinko claims in the lawsuit, her job duties increased, leading to a decrease in sales and a higher rate of errors. Hrinko maintained that an increased workload was to blame.

Soon, Hrinko suffered criticisms by various coworkers. This led to higher stress levels, which eventually required Hrinko to take a leave of absence to seek medical help.

After returning from a seven-week medical leave on Nov. 12, 2010, she was fired without warning, the suit claims.

Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of violating the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act. There is also a count of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

The plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory damages, interest, attorney’s fees and other related court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05273-JD.

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