KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday gave fresh life to a lawsuit that claims the Kansas City Chiefs fired an older maintenance manager because of his age.
In vacating a Jackson County jury’s decision that the club didn’t discriminate in Steve Cox’s firing, the judges said it was wrong to preclude 20 other former employees from testifying that they also lost their jobs because they were older. The Missouri Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration.
Eric Packel, an attorney for the Chiefs, didn’t immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment on the ruling.
Cox was 61 in 2010 when he was fired and replaced with a 37-year-old worker. The Chiefs have argued that Cox was terminated for performance issues and insubordination.
Cox, however, contended that the Chiefs had instituted a policy of terminating or forcing out older employees to make way for younger replacements. The ruling said Cox presented evidence to jurors that in 2008, former Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson told a longtime employee that there would be changes to the front office staff under the leadership of Clark Hunt, then the new chairman and CEO, because Hunt "wanted to go in a more youthful direction." The court said hearing from other employees who lost their jobs was relevant to the claim from Cox.
The Missouri Supreme Court also found in its 5-2 decision that the trial court erred in barring a former employee from testifying that he overheard then-general manager Scott Pioli say: "I need to make major changes in this organization as so many employees of CP (Carl Peterson) are over 40 years old."
The trial court also was faulted for not permitting Cox to depose Hunt.