INDEPENDENCE, Mo - Jurors have to decide if age was a likely factor when the Kansas City Chiefs fired 61-year-old maintenance manager Steve Cox.
Prosecutors touted the sterling 12-year reputation of Cox.
After Cox earned Employee of the Month in 2009 and a promotion in 2010, prosecutors called his termination a few months later a shock. Poor performance, they said, was never addressed.
The Chiefs claim Cox was fired for giving a raise to an employee 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.
But the case seems to rest on what former employee Doug Hopkins heard at a director's meeting three months after Cox's firing. Hopkins said it pointed to the changing culture of the Chiefs in 2011.
"He was sick and tired of these old, entitled employees," said Hopkins, recalling a comment he heard.
"He was referring to the old regime," argued defense attorney Anthony Romano.
Was CFO Dan Crumb speaking out against the 'old regime' or older employees?
"My jaw dropped when he said that," Hopkins said. When asked why, he simply testified "Because I'm old!"
"The Chiefs weren't motivated in any way by Mr. Cox's age," Romano insisted.
Scott Pioli was mentioned several times during opening arguments Wednesday, and he could take the stand during the trial. Cox is suing for lost wages and retirement, as well as punitive damages.