A federal jury in Trenton has awarded a 65-year-old former General Electric Company engineer nearly $800,000 after finding that he had been fired because of his age. The jury on Oct. 8 awarded Murray Garden of Oreland, Pa., $796,044 in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that Garden’s termination in June 1990, at the age of 63, breached the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. Section 621, and the new Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:51. Garden’s attorney, Stephen Console of the Law Offices of Stephen G. Console in Haddon Heights, says Garden had been hired by RCA in 1985 and had continued working at the company’s Moorestown defense industry facility after G.E. acquired RCA in 1986.
After his 1990 termination, Garden sued, alleging age discrimination. Console says he presented evidence at the nine-day trial before U.S. District Judge Clarkson Fisher that G.E.’s ranking of its engineers for force-reduction purposes was biased in favor of younger employees. In its verdicts, the jury awarded Garden $137,000 in back pay; $114,044 for what Garden would have earned from the day of the verdict until what would have been his retirement about two years from now; $137,000 in damages under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, based on G.E.’s willful or reckless disregard of the act; $10,000 in compensatory damages for the company’s violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination; and $398,000 in punitive damages for violation of the state’s anti-discrimination act. G.E.’s trial counsel, Michael Banks, a partner at Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, declined to comment on the case, referring questions to officials for the Fairfield, Conn.-based company.
Jim Tierney, a spokesman for G.E. Aerospace in King of Prussia, Pa., would say only that “G.E. believes that its management acted fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner with respect to Mr. Garden.” Tierney says the company has not decided whether to appeal.