LIAT Loses Appeal and Must Pay Dismissed Employee More Than US$1.5 Million

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, United States Virgin Islands, Wednesday May 22, 2019 – Regional airline LIAT has failed in its efforts to avoid paying more than US$1 million to a former employee in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) who was forced out of the company, after almost five decades of employment, because of his age.

The Antigua-based company had appealed a decision by a jury in February to award William Cherubin US$1,551,320 in damages. But Justice Douglas Brady of the USVI Superior Court has dismissed the appeal and ordered the airline to pay the money.

Cherubin took the cash-strapped airline to court claiming he had been fired because of his age – contrary to LIAT’s claim that it was because of poor performance –, which was in contravention of the Virgin Islands Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination of employees on the basis of age.  

He was 71 years old when he was dismissed on June 4, 2015, without notice, with the company accusing him of violating company policy on three occasions. During his 47 years at the company, Cherubin had risen from a job as a ticket agent to manager of ground operations.

Justice Brady said in his ruling that “the totality of the trial evidence was sufficient to permit a jury to inference that LIAT’s proffered reasons [for Cherubin’s dismissal] were false”.

“Evidence of Cherubin’s emotional pain and suffering following his termination was sufficient that the Court cannot find that the jury’s verdict was seriously erroneous as against the clear weight of the evidence,” he said.

“Accordingly, the Court will not interfere with the jury’s award and LIAT’s motion for a new trial will be denied.”

During the trial, it had been disclosed that four years before Cherubin was fired, LIAT offered employees over the age of 62, including Cherubin, a retirement package in exchange for their voluntary resignations.

Cherubin’s supervisors had urged him to take the offer, telling him he was over the typical retirement age. But he decided to continue working.

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