Manchester man awarded over $134,000 in age discrimination lawsuit against Market Basket

Apr. 1—A federal jury has awarded more than $134,000 in lost wages and damages to a Manchester man in an age discrimination lawsuit against DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., claiming his superiors at Market Basket promoted younger workers instead of him.

Following a four-day trial at United States District Court in Concord, a unanimous jury found that DeMoulas Super Markets, Inc., owners of the popular Market Basket chain of supermarkets, violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and a New Hampshire law against discrimination by failing to promote its employee, Rodney Martinez, from a part-time to full-time position due to his age.

The jury awarded Martinez a total of $80,000 in lost wages, compensatory damages, and enhanced compensatory damages. Where the jury found that Market Basket's age discrimination was willful, liquidated damages of $54,749 will also be added to the judgment along with plaintiff's attorneys fees and costs, for a total of $134,749.

Martinez was represented by Chad T. Hansen and Martin Tartre from the Employee Rights Group.

"We are very happy with the result and are hopeful that the jury's verdict will cause Market Basket to reevaluate its approach to employee promotions and avoid more instances of age discrimination in the future," Hansen said in a statement.

Martinez was 62 when he filed a claim with the state's Human Rights Commission on Jan. 10, 2020. According to the complaint, Martinez says he was 55 when he was hired in 2012 to work part time in the produce department at store #67 in Manchester (DeMoulas claims in separate court paperwork that Martinez was working in the produce department in its Londonderry store.)

In the complaint, Martinez claims even though he was a part-time employee, he was consistently scheduled to work the equivalent of a full-time employee, approximately 40 hours a week, in 2018, 2019 and into 2020, without receiving full-time benefits like paid time off, sick leave, dental insurance and profit sharing.

Martinez claims on several occasions he asked about being promoted to full time, only to see younger part-time workers in their 20s be promoted instead.

When one of these younger workers was terminated, Martinez claims he again approached a manager about being promoted to full time.

"What are you, about 60?" Martinez claims his manager asked him, before saying there was a move in the company towards promoting young people. Martinez claims a manager then asked him if would agree to drop back to part-time status when he got too old.

In separate court documents, attorneys for DeMoulas Super Markets Inc. claim the conversation never took place.

In its decision, the Human Rights Commission found 32 of 37 employees promoted between 2017 and 2019 were under the age of 38.

"Complainant offered sufficient evidence to demonstrate Respondent treated him differently based on his age," Human Rights Commission investigators Dan Deyermond and Nancy LeRoy wrote in a decision dated Aug. 29, 2022.

Dona Feeney, attorney for DeMoulas, requested the complaint be moved to state court on Oct. 22, 2022. A request to move it to federal court came on Nov. 9 that same year.

In response to the complaint, DeMoulas claimed in court documents that "while initially a good performer, Plaintiff (Martinez) performed less well when he felt that someone else should not have received a promotion."

The company also claimed Martinez did not express interest in full-time work until late 2019 when another employee was in training.

DeMoulas sought dismissal of the complaint, with interest and costs.

Attempts to reach attorneys for Demoulas for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

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