East Texas bank accused of age discrimination after terminating 62-year-old VP

By Michelle Keahey, East Texas Bureau | Jun 14, 2011

TYLER - A senior vice president for an East Texas bank has filed an age discrimination lawsuit claiming his supervisors terminated his employment and suggested he draw early Social Security benefits.

Robert Smith filed suit against Panola National Bancshares Inc., doing business as Panola National Bank, on June 8 in the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division.

Smith worked for Panola National Bank for 20 years and at the time of his termination was employed as a senior vice president and director. According to the lawsuit, he suffered a serious on-the-job injury in July 2005, in which his femur was crushed and his other leg fractured. Smith states he is suffering permanent impairments because of the injury, such as difficulty walking.

Shortly after returning to the bank after taking time off for a brain hemorrhage in June 2009, Panola placed Smith on long-term medical leave and stated that his employment would be terminated Dec. 31, 2009.

Smith states that he supervisors requested that he sign a resignation letter and offered to throw a big "retirement" party.

When Smith stated he wanted to work that the loss of income would be a problem, his supervisors stated that Smith, who was turning 62 years old in December, could start drawing early Social Security benefits.

The defendant is accused of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for back pay including lost wages, employment and fringe benefits, reinstatement or front pay, actual damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages, interest, interest, mental anguish, attorney's fees and court costs.

Smith is represented by Joseph H. Gillespie of Gillespie, Rozen & Watsky P.C. in Dallas.

A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis is assigned to the case.

Case No. 6:11-cv-00296

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