'Old' Porn Gang at Kansas Gas Gets Almost $1M In Age Discrimination Suit

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KCTVDennis Janes alleged he was fired for his age, not watching porn
Looking at porn and passing it around on company time often puts you on a fast track out the door, like the Daytona Beach police officer allegedly forced to resign because of having hundreds of pornographic pictures on her work computer (two dozen of which were supposedly of her). Managers tend to object.

So, it may not be completely surprising how four workers at Kansas Gas Service might have been terminated in 2010, especially as the company had a written policy against having pornographic material on its systems. The unusual part is that the former employees successfully sued Kansas Gas for alleged age discrimination and were just awarded $917,035, according to the Kansas City Star.

The company allegedly had found sexually explicit materials on the computers of 52 employees through emails sent by one worker, Dennis Janes. Of the 52, ten were fired, including Janes. Five of them -- Eric Busenbark, Larry Devine, Jeff Josephson, Stacey Strange, and Janes -- were over 40 and had been supervisors and they brought suit for age discrimination, according to their complaint.

The group (one dropped out of the suit before the jury trial started in January) alleged that they had not been given warning prior to disciplinary action, despite a company "standard
practice of progressive discipline."

The plaintiffs claimed that their termination had another cause: age discrimination. The group claimed it was being eased out to make room for younger employees. Here's how the lawsuit put it:

The company had a culture rife with serious misconduct that management turned a blind eye to, or even participated in. Kansas Gas leaders had an interest in protecting their own jobs and growing their own standing in the company. Older employees, who maintained a safety - and consumer - focused attitude, threatened the bottom line.

Janes, in particular, thought that his medical bills -- which, over the years, had included 11 knee operations and two knee replacements -- could also have been a factor.

The employees went on to claim that being fired "destroyed" them and their families and that none of them had been able to "find comparable employment, especially given their ages and the poor economy." They said they had "climbed up the ranks" and cared about the "safety and dignity" of co-workers. Furthermore, the plaintiffs said that sending the images was part of a "lighthearted approach" they took in the office.

Apparently the argument held weight with the jury, which decided that younger defendants faced lesser consequences for the same activities, according to KCTV. The Kansas City Star reported that the four remaining in the lawsuit previously had clean disciplinary and performance records.

Each of the employees received lost wages and about $48,000 for emotional distress, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. KCTV reported that a judge might also award lost future wages.

Kansas Gas officials described themselves as "disappointed" and were undecided on whether to appeal the verdict or not.

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