Former Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers will still be getting a hefty payday from his prior employer in an age and disability discrimination lawsuit. But the reward won’t be quite as large as initially decided.
In November, Simers, 65, was awarded $7.1 million by a jury in an age and disability discrimination lawsuit against the L.A. Times. As could be expected, the newspaper quickly appealed the ruling.
On Monday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William A. MacLaughlin trimmed $2.1 million from Simers’ award, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to determine that the L.A. Times had been forced out of his job at the paper.
Simers contended that the Times reduced his workload from three weekly columns to two and eventually forced him out after he suffered a mini-stroke during spring training of 2013. Meanwhile, the paper contended that Simers had left on his own after being disciplined for not disclosing that he was developing a sitcom based on his career with producer Mike Tollin, thus creating a conflict of interest.
But in MacLaughlin’s view, the newspaper had not created or allowed an unbearable working environment, the standard for the “constructive termination” that Simers was claiming.
“Under such a test, an employee who is demoted is not simply permitted to quit and sue because they do not like the new assignment,” wrote MacLaughlin in his ruling. “While it may be a difficult experience to be criticized and demoted, an employee’s embarrassment and hurt feelings do not transform a resignation into a constructive discharge.”
The $2.1 million restored to the Times in MacLaughlin’s decision amounts to the $330,000 in past wages lost and $1.8 million for future economic damages that a jury originally granted to Simers. However, that still leaves the $5 million “for past and future emotional pain and suffering” that was part of the initial award.
Strangely, as Times reporter Kim Christensen points out in his story, MacLaughlin didn’t explain why he was still awarding Simers $5 million and thus maintaining the discrimination claims against the paper, other than to say “there is substantial evidence, and reasonable inferences that can be drawn from that evidence, supporting the verdict for Simers on each such claim.”
Once again, the L.A. Times will appeal the decision.