Elk Grove News

Former Galt parks director loses age-discrimination suit

A Sacramento Superior Court jury on Friday rejected a discrimination lawsuit filed against the city of Galt by its former parks director, who claimed he was laid off because of his age.

The jury, which had listened to 22 days of testimony, voted 9-3 against Boyce Jeffries. He had sought $1.3 million in economic damages, as well as $3 million to $4 million in damages for emotional injuries Jeffries claims he suffered as a result of his termination three years ago.

“We are very pleased that the jury agreed with the city’s position and we’re very happy to have this long trial behind us and get back to the business of the city,” Galt City Attorney Steven P. Rudolph said after the jury returned its verdict.

Jeffries, who was 54 when he was laid off, was offered another job with the city in August as a recreation coordinator. Rudolph said Jeffries is slated to begin his new job on Monday. He will be paid $41,000 a year, with a benefit package worth $35,000 a year. His job as parks director had paid him $165,000 in wages and benefits, according to court documents.

Jeffries declined to comment on the verdict.

One of his two attorneys, Elisa Ungerman, thanked the jury for its work and said that “while we’re not happy about it, the system is the system.”

“The jury evidently weighed the evidence and made their decision,” Ungerman said. “While we don’t agree with it, we certainly appreciate the hard work they did, and after all, they are the triers of fact. It was up to them to make a decision, and they made a decision.”

Jeffries had worked for the city for 27 years at the time of his May 2011 departure. In court papers, plaintiffs’ attorney Lawrence A. Bohm said that Jeffries was “kicked in the teeth” and was “involuntarily put out to pasture when he was not ready or financially able to do so.”

The plaintiffs based much of their case on reports in the Galt Herald newspaper that attributed information to City Manager Jason Behrmann that the municipality had undertaken a cost-cutting layoff program aimed at older employees. The paper said Behrmann targeted the more experienced employees because they could take advantage of sweetened pension offers and that they were in better positions to find other jobs. The story also attributed information to Behrmann that the layoff plan was designed to protect younger city employees.

Galt officials denied that Behrmann gave information to the paper that the city had targeted older workers or was out to safeguard the positions of younger ones. They said the layoff program was the result of the economic downturn that had ravaged city finances over the previous three years.