PHILADELPHIA – A pair of former Pizza Hut employees who claim they were fired due to their age have been awarded damages totaling nearly $200,000 by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Carol A. Grieb, 65, and Tammy A. Reynolds, 43, filed suit against JNP Foods (doing business as Pizza Hut) in March for violations of the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), after exhausting their administrative remedies through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Both Grieb and Reynolds had spent their entire careers at Pizza Hut working as part-time food servers, with Grieb’s length of service lasting 37 years and Reynolds’ tenure lasting 27 years, until both were terminated in July 2014 from the restaurant chain’s location in Morgantown. Both were more than 10 years older than all of their co-workers there, outside of one employee who served as a dishwasher.
The suit says Grieb and Reynolds left the Morgantown Pizza Hut restaurant during their shifts due to suffering heat-related health complications, resulting from an air conditioner on the premises which had been inoperable for several days. Though they both reported the situation to their manager Kevin Quinter, he allegedly refused to let them leave the premises, despite allowing their younger co-workers to do so. Grieb and Reynolds left the restaurant regardless, and Quinter summarily fired them on July 4, 2014 and July 6, 2014, respectively.
According to the lawsuit, Reynolds was able to secure employment at another restaurant in April (though earning less than she made at Pizza Hut), while Grieb has not been able to secure employment since her termination from Pizza Hut.
Judge Harvey S. Bartle III found Pizza Hut did in fact violate the ADEA in their treatment of Grieb and Reynolds.
“Here, we find that JNP Foods willfully violated the ADEA when it terminated the plaintiffs because of their age. It refused the plaintiffs’ requests to leave work early, in spite of their risk of serious medical consequences, solely because of their older ages,” Bartle said. “It did this intentionally. It knew that the plaintiffs would nonetheless defy its refusal and leave work because of their physical symptoms thereby creating a reason to fire the older plaintiffs.”
Bartle stated a default judgment was “appropriate” in this particular case because JNP Foods had not pleaded or defended itself against the complaint in any way.
As Pizza Hut did not respond to service of the complaint in April, the plaintiffs motioned for default judgment in June. On Dec. 11, the plaintiffs likewise further motioned for an assessment of damages hearing, which featured Grieb and Reynolds testifying to their “good health, wages earned while employed by JNP Foods, and efforts to obtain new employment following termination”, in addition to their shared desire to continue working for the foreseeable future.
Their argument convinced the Court, who agreed to award each plaintiff a variety of damages with a combined total value of nearly $200,000.
“In summary, we award plaintiff Carol A. Grieb back pay in the amount of $17,800.29, pre-judgment interest in the amount of $1,068.02, liquidated damages in the amount of $17,800.29, front pay in the amount of $52,000, and attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $14,451.32. This totals $103,119.92,” Bartle said.
“We award plaintiff Tammy A. Reynolds back pay in the amount of $16,490.05, pre-judgment interest in the amount of $989.40, liquidated damages in the amount of $16,490.05, front pay in the amount of $45,000, and attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $14,451.32. This totals $93,420.82,” Bartle added.
The plaintiffs are represented by John A. Gallagher of Gallagher Law Group, in Berwyn.
The defendant did not have legal representation, according to court records.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-01575
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org