ST. LOUIS, MO – A St. Louis Circuit Court jury has awarded $1.14 million to a man who said he was laid off from his job with the Missouri Department of Public Safety because of his age.
Timothy Barber, now 61, was let go from his job with the department’s Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Control in November 2009, after nearly 30 years there. At the time, Barber was the third-highest in seniority among 12 special agents employed at the division’s downtown facility, and fourth most senior in the state. He was told it was because of budgetary reasons.
Two other more senior special agents were also let go.
The four youngest special agents in the office, who had less seniority, did not lose their jobs. Barber’s lawyers, Jerome Dobson and Brian Love, argued that went against 30 years of prior practice in which layoffs were made in reverse order of time served with the department.
A year later, some of those younger special agents also were dismissed, but then later called back to their jobs, the suit said. Barber was eventually offered his job back, but only under the condition that he release the department from liability in his discrimination claim, Dobson said. He refused.
Dobson said Barber’s supervisor, Lafayette Lacy, testified that he laid off the more senior workers because eliminating their steeper salaries would save more jobs overall. But Barber’s lawyers said they were able to show that the savings weren’t that significant.
The attorney general’s office, which represented the state agency, declined through a spokeswoman to comment.
When the suit against the department went to trial this week in St. Louis Circuit Court, Barber’s lawyers asked the jury to award him three years worth of lost compensation, minus what he gets in retirement money. Barber had a $48,000 base salary, but with overtime made about $56,000 annually.
On Thursday, the jury awarded him $540,000 in actual damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.
“We’re enormously gratified with the verdict,” Dobson said, pointing out it was an unusual case because the department did not challenge Barber’s performance in defending the layoff.