Jury sides with Gannett, C-J in age discrimination lawsuit
Former newspaper circulation executive sought more than $1 million after 2011 firing.
Thursday, July 31st 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Jefferson County jury deliberated for about an hour Thursday before finding in favor of The Courier-Journal and its parent company in an age discrimination lawsuit brought by a newspaper executive who was fired in 2011.
Mike Huot, who was asking for more than $1 million in back pay and damages, claimed that he was fired at age 61 in September 2011 and replaced by a younger manager. At the time, Huot was making about $325,000 a year.
In closing arguments, Huot attorney Jan West urged jurors to weigh Gannett executives “self-serving” testimony against more than 17,000 documents produced during the case that showed few complaints with Huot’s performance as a circulation executive.
Kathyrn Quesenberry, an attorney for The Courier-Journal and Gannett, argued that those same documents contained “not a single word” about Huot’s age, and said the company let Huot go for "business reasons” as the newspaper industry and The Courier-Journal struggled to cope with changing economic fortunes.
Huot said in a brief interview after the verdict that he was “disappointed for me and all people in my demographic."
Quesenberry declined comment.
During the trial, Quesenberry identified Huot as one of nearly 1,300 employees Gannett has fired since 2011 amid declines in advertising revenue and readers moving away from the company’s print newspapers.
Evan Ray, president of Gannett Publishing Services, testified at trial that advertising revenue across the company declined 50 percent from 2007 to 2010 and that, compared to other Gannett newspapers, The Courier-Journal’s performance was “among the lowest.”
Huot testified during the weeklong trial before Circuit Court Judge Fred Cowan that he hadn’t been able to find a similarly paying job because he lacks a college degree.
Appearing on the witness stand, Huot said he has had nightmares of trying to enter the newspaper’s downtown building – only to find the doors locked.
Disclosure: WDRB.com reporter Marcus Green worked at The Courier-Journal from 2001 to 2013.
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