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Court rules Market Basket must pay $135K in age discrimination lawsuit

A former employee said he was passed over for promotion to a full-time job by the supermarket chain due to his age

A former Market Basket employee has been awarded just under $135,000 in lost wages and damages after a jury ruled in his favor in a federal case that alleged Market Basket discriminated against him because of his age.

Rodney Martinez had filed a suit against DeMoulas Super Markets, Inc., parent company of the Tewksbury, Mass.-based Market Basket chain, claiming that Market Basket promoted younger employees over Martinez, a part-time employee of more than seven years, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

Martinez said in the court documents that he was discriminated against under both the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination.

Following a trial, on Monday a jury returned a verdict in favor of Martinez on both claims and awarded him back pay of $54,749 and compensatory damages for $20,251.

Judge Andrea Johnstone also awarded Martinez $54,749 in liquidated damages and an additional $5,000 in enhanced compensatory damages.

Martinez, who was in his 50s when he first started with Market Basket in 2012, worked full-time hours as a produce associate at a store in Manchester. Court documents claim that Market Basket repeatedly chose not to promote Martinez, frequently scheduling him more than 45 hours a week without providing him full-time benefits. The documents also state that Martinez has a graduate degree in education. In 2019, he was paid $11.50 per hour. 

Court documents indicated that despite Martinez repeatedly pressing his manager for a full-time role, Market Basket instead promoted younger, less qualified employees, including a 27-year-old in May 2019, and then a 22-year-old in December of that year when the 27-year-old was fired. At the time, Martinez was 59.

In a statement provided to Supermarket News via Market Basket’s lawyer, the retailer said: “We respect the judicial process but are surprised and disappointed by the decision. Throughout the trial, there were clear and compelling reasons provided regarding why Mr. Martinez was not promoted sooner. Market Basket is a company that prides itself on the longevity of our associates; it is part of our culture. Many people who join our team remain with us throughout their career, which is something that we believe provides great value to our company and to our customers. We are currently evaluating whether to take an appeal of the decision.” 

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