Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he hopes the Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, would appeal the US$1.55 million in damages award a former employee by a jury in the United States Virgin Islands earlier this month.
William Cherubin took the cash-strapped airline to court in St. Croix claiming he had been dismissed because of his age.
According to court documents, on June 4, 2015, LIAT fired Cherubin without notice, citing several incidents involving violations of company policy, including two alleged incidents that occurred in 2009 and 2012.
Cherubin and his attorneys alleged that LIAT actually fired him because of his age and not because of poor performance, as the airline argued. Virgin Island laws prohibit the discrimination of employees because of age.
In 2011, LIAT offered all employees over age 62 a retirement package in exchange for voluntary resignations, but Cherubin turned down the offer.
“Clearly excessive and I would imagine that LIAT would appeal it. In any event whoever made that judgement does not understand the financial health of LIAT,” Browne said on a radio programme here.
He said he was certain if they understood the airline’s financial situation “they would not be making such an outlandish decision to award 1.5 million US dollars. That’s just utter madness”.
Antigua and Barbuda is one of the four major shareholder governments of the airline. The others being Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Cherubin ‘s attorney Vince Colianni told the The Virgin Island Consortium last Wednesday that the reason LIAT gave was false, insisting “the real reason was age discrimination.
“We’re very pleased. We think the verdict sends a message to LIAT that it can’t fire Virgin Islands employees because of age. It shows that the VI protects its citizens.”
Cherubin was 70 when he was fired by LIAT in 2015. He worked at the airline for 47 years.