Age discrimination lawsuit filed against Philadelphia company

By Jon Campisi | Sep 8, 2011

A 65-year-old professional who alleges his job termination was age-related is suing his former employer in federal court.

Philadelphia attorney Steven T. Stern filed the employment discrimination lawsuit Sept. 6 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Steven G. Hillebrand of Wayne, Pa.

The defendant named in the civil action is Penn Center House, Inc., which has a primary place of business at 1900 JFK Boulevard in Center City, Philadelphia.

According to the lawsuit, Hillebrand was hired by the defendant as its general manager in May 2008, and expected to commence those duties in January 2009. Prior to that, Hillebrand was employed by the defendant in other capacities dating back to May 1991.

In his capacity as general manager, Hillebrand would report directly to the Penn Center House board of directors.

His job required Hillebrand to oversee the company’s operating budget, and during his time serving as general manager, Penn Center House operated under a positive cash flow, the lawsuit states.

In November 2010, the suit claims, the defendant’s operating budget showed a profit of $100,000, even after allowing for depreciation.

However, despite the fact that the company was performing well, and that Hillebrand received regular salary increases, reflecting his positive job performance, Hillebrand was told by a board member in December 2010 that he would be losing his job.

Hillebrand was told his firing had to do with the fact that he was responsible for a company decorating budget overage of $400,000.

In the suit, Hillebrand claims that he was never given the responsibility for overseeing the decorations of the defendant and that he played no part in decision making regarding the decorating budget.

Hillebrand was not even a member of the company’s decorating committee, the suit claims.

Through his lawsuit, Hillebrand claims that the official reason for his firing was a cover-up, and the real reason he was terminated was because he was growing older.

“The reason given for Plaintiff’s termination was, therefore, an [artfully] contrived pretext used to attempt to insulate Defendant from liability for the true cause of Plaintiff’s dismissal, which was Plaintiff’s age,” the lawsuit states.

After Hillebrand’s firing, the company hired a 38-year-old man to replace him, the suit states.

“Plaintiff was fully qualified to continue his job with Defendant but Defendant preferred to employ a much younger person instead of Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff believes, and therefore avers, that the act of discharging him, despite his acknowledged qualifications, was the result of age discrimination.”

Since his firing, the lawsuit claims, Hillebrand has been unable to find work.

In addition to the federal age discrimination count, the lawsuit also accuses the defendant of violating Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act.

Hillebrand seeks front and back pay, benefits, counsel fees, and a declaration from the company that it violated the plaintiff’s rights.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05586-PD.

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