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Court grants trial in JBS age discrimination case

June 30, 2013
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer (dalexander@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

A local man claiming JBS fired him because of his age is having his case go to trial.

Lyle Ridout began working for the pork plant in 1968 until the company fired him in 2010 for raising his voice, according to court documents. Ridout worked as the rendering superintendent until a machine broke and plant manager Troy Mulgrew fired him, saying Ridout became combative when confronted about the situation.

According to court documents filed in April, Ridout admits to getting upset about how administration handled the incident, but said he speaks loudly because four decades of working near noisy machinery has damaged his hearing. Ridout was 62 at the time of his firing.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has found merit with Ridout's claim that the plant fired him because of his age. Ridout cited JBS firing two other supervisors who claimed the plant targeted them for their age. JBS maintains that the men were fired for safety violations and that Ridout was fired because of declining performance and his aggressive demeanor when confronted about the machine breaking.

However, according to the court documents, the company had provided no specific examples of Ridout's poor performance and could not produce records showing problems with his performance prior to the May 14, 2010 incident involving the broken machine. Ridout admitted that he was out of line when speaking to his superiors following the incident and even agreed to a demotion. He was fired instead.

Subsequent to Ridout's firing, court documents show JBS replaced Ridout with another man, Chad Richett, who is in his 30s before demoting him and hiring John Holden, 33, as new rendering superintendent. The company had fired Holden five years earlier for constructing a mock Ku Klux Klan hood from industrial materials and showing it to a black employee.

Ridout sued, alleging age discrimination, court documents show. The district court concluded Ridout was unable to prove the reasons JBS gave for his firing were a pretext. Ridout appealed, and the 8th Circuit Court found merit with the case, saying that management had not counseled or warned Ridout about his alleged declining performance prior to firing him. Interviews with other supervisors also show that heated arguments between supervisors and management involving the use of foul language are common, but none of those supervisors could recall an employee being fired for such behavior.

Additionally, Ridout offered the court evidence that management treated younger employees more leniently than it treated its older employees, the documents show.

Ridout declined to comment for this story, and a call to JBS for comment Friday morning went unreturned at press time.

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Contact David Alexander at 641-753 6611 or dalexander@timesrepublican.com

 
 

 

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