After a nine-day trial, a federal jury in Trenton awarded $796,000 in damages Thursday to a former GE Aerospace senior engineer who said the defense contractor discriminated against him on the basis of age when it laid him off in June 1990.

Murray Garden, 65, of Oreland, Pa., argued that the way GE Aerospace in Moorestown ranked its employees forced older workers to the bottom and pushed younger workers to the top without regard to their skills. The company used the ranking as a guide when laying off workers.

According to Stephen G. Console, Garden’s lawyer, GE ranked all its senior engineers according to a range of criteria, including their potential. It then separately ranked junior engineers before merging both lists, leaving many of the senior engineers at the bottom, Console said.

Garden, a software engineer who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950, was ranked 47th of 54 senior and junior engineers. All the engineers below Garden in the rankings were older than 50 and also laid off, Console said.

Console said he believed none of the other senior engineers had sued the company.

“It’s like saying being at the bottom of the honors class is worse than being at the top or in the middle of the slow class,” said Console.

Garden, who was hired by RCA in 1985, a year before its merger with GE, has been unemployed since he was laid off.

A spokesman for GE said the company was reviewing the decision and considering an appeal.

“GE believes its management acted fairly and in a nondiscriminatory manner in regard to Mr. Garden,” said Jim Tierney, a company spokesman.

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