A former San Diego sportswriter has seen his $7.1 million jury award go up in smoke. A judge Tuesday voided the last of the money he won in a suit over age discrimination and disability.
On Tuesday, the judge voided $5 million in damages for emotional distress.
But he granted a new trial on the noneconomic damages that were awarded.
“On Monday, MacLaughlin ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support Simers’ claim of constructive termination, namely that the newspaper had created or permitted intolerable working conditions,” the Times reported. “Instead, the judge ruled, Simers had quit his $234,000-a-year job of his own accord.”
The judge was quoted as saying: “An employee who is demoted is not simply permitted to quit and sue because they do not like the new assignment. 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 Times said that unless MacLaughlin’s ruling is reversed on appeal, the constructive termination claim cannot be retried.
The discrimination claims may be retried, “but it is unclear whether Simers will pursue that course, especially because he could no longer link his emotional distress to his departure from the paper.”
A Times spokeswoman said the paper would appeal MacLaughlin’s decision to let the discrimination claims stand.
“We are gratified by the court’s ruling and will continue to work to correct the discrimination finding,” she said. “Our editors acted honorably in their efforts to protect the integrity of the newspaper, which we believe will be reflected in the legal resolution.”
Simers resigned Sept. 6, 2013, a day after accepting a job at the Orange County Register with a salary of $190,000.
Simers came to The San Diego Union in 1985 and left for the Times five years later. (The morning Union merged with its sister paper, the afternoon Tribune, in 1992.)
In November, The Register quoted Simers as saying he was “beaten up” and “blindsided” by his experience.
“I was 62 and I had gotten sick and it became clear that I was not part of their larger picture,” Simers told the paper. “I’ve been a journalist for 40-plus years and I’ve just been saddened by what has happened with the L.A. Times and other newspapers across the country.
“I did this for other journalists.”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: