Man accuses Thornhill Group of age discrimination, retaliation

By Annie Cosby | Nov 12, 2014

LOGAN – A Kanawha County man is suing over claims he was retaliated against for accusing his employer of age discrimination.

George A. Roberts re-filed a lawsuit Oct. 1 in Logan Circuit Court against Thornhill Group Inc. and Wally L. Thornhill, individually and as president of Thornhill Group Inc., citing breach of contract.

According to the complaint, in 2006, Roberts was personally recruited by Wally Thornhill and hired as general manager at the dealership Thornhill Group, which was struggling as a result of low sales and management problems.

Roberts says the dealership thrived under his management, recognized as one of the top Ford dealerships in the state, but in 2011, he began to hear rumors that a younger employee was being groomed to replace him.

Roberts says Thornhill's and other employee's behavior toward him changed, they began to manipulate sales figures to deprive him of compensation and denied him vacation time. The complaint states Roberts notified the defendants, through counsel, that their actions constituted age discrimination.

The lawsuit states the defendants began retaliating against Roberts with such behavior as excluding him from meetings, accusing him of driving under the influence of alcohol after the company Christmas party, terminating his long-time use of a company vehicle, terminating his gas allotment and rebuking him for selling a vehicle to the relative of a coworker despite there being no policy in place prohibiting it.

Roberts says the retaliation made for such a hostile environment that he was forced to resign, and his last paycheck did not include the unused vacation he had accrued.

Thornhill Group is accused of violating the West Virginia Human Rights Act, breach of contract and violating the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. Both defendants are accused of unlawful retaliation in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

Roberts seeks compensatory and punitive damages, interest and attorney fees and costs.

He is represented by attorneys Harry F. Bell Jr., Jonathan W. Price and Stacy Ann Jacques of The Bell Law Firm in Charleston. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Eric H. O'Briant.

Logan Circuit Court case number: 14-C-275

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