Former GE Employee Wins $11 Million Verdict in Age and Racial Suit

Bridgeport, CT

A chief engineer of Indian descent has won an $11 million verdict against General Electric Co. after a federal jury found the conglomerate discriminated against and illegally fired him.

The six-member jury awarded Hermant K. Mody, 52, $591,423 in back pay and $500,000 in compensatory damages. Jurors then added $10 million in punitive damages against Fairfield-based GE.

“It’s a finding based on the contributions Dr. Moody made to General Electric while he was there and the way he was treated once he complained of the discrimination he observed,” said Scott Lucas, his attorney.

GE vowed to challenge the verdict.

“We strongly disagree with the jury verdict and we do plan a vigorous appeal,” company spokeswoman Deborah Wexler said Thursday. “We are dedicated to treating our employees fairly and we absolutely prohibit discrimination and retaliation.” The jury reached a verdict after deliberating for six hours Tuesday.

Moody worked in General Electric’s Plainville facility, which provided products and received patents, including one for the magic lighting panel, an energy-saving device used in industry.

Mody, who has a Ph.D., has been unemployed since he was fired in March 2003.

In the lawsuit, Mody accused GE of discriminating against him in terms of promotions, job assignments and benefits. He said that since joining the company in 1998 he watched younger, white males pass him by in promotions and management positions.

Mody said GE has not contributed to its pension fund since 1987 and is able to do so by maintaining a young work force, and laying off or firing employees as they become older. On July 22, 2002, he sent a memo to Tom Lavalle, GE’s human resource manager, outlining his claims of discrimination and unfair treatment, the suit charged.

Once he complained of the discrimination, he charged GE treated him unfairly, assigning him to menial tasks. He also was told that he was absent too often, a condition due to kidney failure, which required him to undergo dialysis daily.

In December 2002, Mody took leave of absence, and when he returned on Feb. 24, 2003, the suit claims he again was assigned menial tasks. When he complained, he was first suspended and then fired on March 7, 2003.

Mooy sued GE for age discrimination, retaliation, infliction of emotional distress and other violations of state and federal law.

© 2006 Associated Press