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Comments at firing support ADEA claim

A 58-year-old executive who was fired after company management allegedly said it needed “new talent” gets another chance to prove his age discrimination complaint in Charlottesville federal court.

Dean Inman, an engineer and former vice president of Klockner Pentaplast of America, said that when company president Michael Tubridy fired him, Tubridy told him he did not fit the “model” or “profile” of the “energetic” person the company needed to project. And an outside consultant recommended to a company management team that it appoint a task force of “young,” “energetic” and “future” people to review operations.

But Tubridy allegedly cited other reasons to terminate Inman after 17 years with KPA, including Inman’s failure to draft a long-range commercial development plan for his department and his lie about his support, as a company steering committee member, of a salary freeze the company implemented in 2005. The company replaced Inman with the 45-year-old vice president of operations, and changed the position somewhat.

In its unpublished per curiam opinion Oct. 22, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed District Judge Norman Moon’s grant of summary judgment to KPA.

There was “some evidence” that Inman was performing adequately, the appellate panel said. He received annual bonuses and drew public praise from Tubridy just weeks before he was fired. And Inman and Tubridly told starkly different accounts of how the wage freeze went down.

A jury could consider that the performance deficiencies cited by Tubridy were exaggerated to cover up the age-based motive for the firing, the panel said.
By Deborah Elkins

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