Guitar Center slapped with wrongful termination lawsuit

Jon Campisi Oct. 14, 2011, 9:57am

A Norristown man allegedly dubbed the “older guy” at the Montgomery County, Pa. musical instrument store where he worked before his firing last year has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, claiming he was terminated because of his age.

Wynnewood, Pa. attorney Joseph A. Hirsch, of the firm Hirsch & Hirsch, filed the civil complaint Oct. 11 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Michael A. Angelucci.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is the Guitar Center store at 2620 Chemical Road in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

According to the complaint, Angelucci, who was hired to work at the store in September 2008, was “unlawfully terminated” in July of last year. The plaintiff was 44 years old at the time of his firing.

The lawsuit alleges that Angelucci, who managed the drum department, was initially replaced by a 24-year-old Guitar Center employee who months later was transferred to the guitar department and himself replaced by another younger employee who was transferred into the Plymouth Meeting store from another Guitar Center location.

Angelucci, who was labeled the “older guy” in the workplace, the lawsuit states, believes he was retaliated against because he complained to management about an allegedly “tolerated drug culture” in the workplace in which employees would routinely take breaks to smoke marijuana and consume alcohol while on the clock before returning to work.

“Mr. Angelucci complained about … the fact that the employees who were working ‘under the influence’ were a safety risk and were bad for business,” the lawsuit states. “In response, management cast Mr. Angelucci as the ‘older guy.’”

About a week after his complaints, Angelucci was given a written discipline for alleged failure to adhere to merchandising standards.

“This write up was pretextual and was in response to Mr. Angelucci’s actions as the older, more mature worker who was critical of the drug culture at the store,” the lawsuit states.

The store then terminated Angelucci’s employment because of his age, the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint accuses the defendant of violating the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The lawsuit also contains a count of wrongful termination.

According to the complaint, Angelucci had first filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2010, alleging discrimination on the basis of age. His complaint was cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Angelucci received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC in August of this year.

Through his lawsuit, Angelucci seeks declaratory judgment prohibiting the defendant from continuing to engage in employment practices that violate “clear mandates of public policy in this Commonwealth.”

The plaintiff also seeks back pay, front pay, overtime and lost wages, benefits, unspecified compensatory damages, interest, attorney’s fees and other legal and equitable relief.

Angelucci is demanding a jury trial.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06347-WY.

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