30 Mar Napa winery salesman files lawsuit for age discrimination
Age discrimination lawsuits affect all industries, but a new one from Napa, California concerns the wine business. A former sales rep is suing the company he used to work for because of being terminated on the grounds that he was too old. It’s not surprising that he hired a wrongful termination lawyer for his lawsuit. In the world of which the wine cellar is prized, an age discrimination suit does seem on the surface to be a curious event.
The details of the suit stem from a conversation that Joseph White, who worked as a regional sales manager for Fior di Sole in Kansas, the parent company of Ca’ Momi Winery, was asked in 2015 his age. After some initial hesitation, he responded that he was 67 years old. At that point, White alleges that his manager stated he was “too old” to work in the industry.
Also mentioned in the lawsuit, White stated that he and a co-worker refused to attend a mandatory seminar of which the title was “Sacred Commerce” which was about the spiritual community in the workplace. White was not comfortable with the religious overtones of the seminar and he stated that afterwards both he and the co-worker were criticized for not attending.
White was fired shortly afterward for what the company said was “restructuring”, but that was later changed to his poor performance in terms of sales. For di Sole has through its attorney denied any wrongdoing and states that they operate a fair workplace. White subsequently sued the company based on age discrimination. It should be noted that the company did not cite missing a mandatory seminar as part of the reason for the firing.
The merits of the lawsuit will be heard by a jury, although it should be noted that more than 90% of all lawsuits are settled before they reach a decision. This strongly indicates that the resolution may be a financial one, but not the type that settles what really happened. It will also take several months before the trial begins which means that it could be settled in the meantime.
The ramifications of the lawsuit will depend on the evidence presented, the skill of the wrongful termination lawyer that White has hired, and the belief that he might have been fired based on his age. The fact that his age did come up in conversation, at least according to White, is a mark in his favor. In addition, the company will have to show that sales under White dipped or did not meet reasonable expectations as compared to his predecessors.
All things considered, an industry that is focused on filling the wine cellar of their customers should be embroiled in an age discrimination lawsuit brings some interesting questions to bear. One of the most pertinent is whether it is perceived by wine companies that they must cater to a younger audience. Although firing an individual based on age has no place in any industry, the motivations as to why it may happen might bring some insight into the wine business as a whole.