A 51-year-old Falls Church man who worked as a part-time security guard after losing his job as a loan officer at a Woodbridge savings and loan was awarded $1,176,000 yesterday by a federal court jury that found that his former employers discriminated against him because of his age and improperly broke his contract.
James D. Valentine was hired by First American Savings and Loan Association April 1, 1984, to offer bank loans to builders and contractors in Fairfax and Arlington counties, according to court papers.
The complaint Valentine later filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria said that his employers fired him on June 15, 1984, citing "false, pretextual and erroneous reasons" and the "fact that [he] allegedly must produce more loan applications." He was not allowed to receive commissions for the work he had done during his period of employment, the complaint said.
During the time he worked at First American, Valentine, then 50, "was continually told that First American thought of itself as a new institution, very young, progressive and aggressive," the complaint said.
The six-member jury, which deliberated for six hours, found that the defendants, First American S&L; its president, James H. Harrison, who is 46; its vice-president, William C. Harrison, 26, and then-loan division head Thomas S. Call, 34, had violated federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on age and had broken their contract with Valentine.
The jury awarded Valentine $588,000 as compensation and doubled that amount, as provided for under the federal age discrimination law.
Valentine said that he was pleased with the verdict, which he called "fair and just. Valentine and his attorney, Linda L. Pence, said he had been forced into bankruptcy by the loss of his savings and loan job and had to sell his home.
Richard R. Nageotte, attorney for the bank and its officers, said he will file a motion to set aside the verdict. Nageotte said his clients denied discriminating against Valentine because of his age and had fired him because "he wasn't producing as required by his contract." Evidence at the trial showed that a woman hired at the same time as Valentine was able to arrange 43 loans, whereas Valentine pulled in only one loan, Nageotte said.
First American is the largest financial institution in Prince William County, with assets of about $250 million, according to court papers.