KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A jury sided with the Kansas City Chiefs in an age discrimination civil lawsuit on Wednesday.
They found age was not likely a factor when maintenance manager Steve Cox was fired from his position.
After Cox earned Employee of the Month in 2009 and a promotion in 2010, defense attorneys called his termination a few months later a shock. Poor performance, they said, was never addressed.
The Chiefs claim Cox was fired for giving an employee a raise without permission. Cox said he never had to ask before. He was replaced by a man almost 25 years younger, who was also a friend of a new executive.
Former General Manager Scott Pioli faced tough questions in the trial that lasted almost three weeks after two snow storms delayed proceedings.
"It was more about having pride in the workplace and pride in your job and pride in general and respect for the people you work with and for," Pioli said, answering questions about a candy wrapper he found on the stairs.
Pioli sat as attorneys for Cox combed through dozens of emails, exposing intense requests that often had to be handled by the former maintenance manager. The tasks ranged from doors that slam too hard to a ball of hair found on the floor.
Despite these emails, Pioli claimed he stayed out of the business side of the Chiefs.
But another former employee, Brenda Sniezek, testified she felt like Pioli was constantly asking her age. She wasn't allowed to tell jurors why the Kansas City Chiefs let her go, but she has also filed an age discrimination lawsuit. She said she heard an executive claim they were "sick and tired of old, entitled employees."
"I found it odd that we were talking about old people and entitlements," she said.
In testimony not presented to the jury, Sniezek said that she worked for the Chiefs for almost thirty years and claimed she was replaced by someone younger.
This was only the first of at least two verdicts that will come in age discrimination suits against the Chiefs. Sniezak's trial against the organization has not yet started.
The Chiefs released the following statement on the verdict Wednesday evening:
We are pleased with today’s verdict. We appreciate the time and effort the jury gave with regards to the facts of the case.
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