Gas workers fired over porn win age-discrimination lawsuit - KCTV5

Gas workers fired over porn win age-discrimination lawsuit

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FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -

A jury has awarded fired Kansas Gas Service employees nearly $1 million after finding they were discriminated against based on their age.

The workers were fired for sharing pornographic emails. Other employees who were younger didn't face as harsh of penalties for doing the same thing, the jury found.

Kansas Gas officials said in a statement that they are disappointed and considering appealing the verdict. 

The gas company fired Dennis Janes and three other veteran employees after they were found emailing each other pornographic videos and pictures.

Janes, who was in charge of contractors that replaced gas mains, admits the nature of the messages were explicit and hardcore but he says it was all guy humor.

"I regret sending the emails. I don't know how it got started. I never had a computer before I was a supervisor but everybody was doing it," Janes told KCTV5.

But shortly after the company abruptly terminated the four men in 2010, they filed their lawsuit.

"For the little guy which myself and three other people (are), we had an idea that we thought we could win and we wanted to stand up for what was right and we stood up to a big company and we won," Janes said.

Their lawyer, Dennis Egan, said the company practiced progressive discipline before terminating employees who were found violating company policy.

"These gentlemen came from the union, worked their way up in the union and always followed progressive discipline and it was undisputed. Every witness admitted we follow the same progressive discipline for salaried employees. Here they did not," Egan explained.

Egan says the company found dozens of other employees circulating the same kind of electronic messages but those under 40 kept their jobs.

"They never shrunk from the fact that we did this, we didn't know it was against policy but if we deserve discipline we didn't deserve the firing squad," Egan said.

Janes was a 37-year veteran who supervised field crews. He believes his medical bills became a financial burden for the company after 11 knee operations and two knee replacements.

"For the little guy which myself and three other people - we had an idea that we thought we could win and we wanted to stand up for what was right and we stood up to a big company and we won," Janes said.

A jury of seven women and five men awarded the four former employees nearly $1 million in total and a judge is expected to award an additional sum of money for lost future wages.

In addition to Janes, 60, the other employees who won the age-discrimination lawsuit were Eric Busenbark, 50; Jeff Josephson, 59; and Stacey Strange, 52, according to the Kansas City Star.

Janes said they were quite emotional when they heard the verdict.

"We were all sitting there holding hands, the wives and all the other plaintiffs and after we heard the first name go down and said they agreed with us, there wasn't a dry eye in the place," he said.

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