Chesterfield superintendent testifies in age bias lawsuit

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A federal age-discrimination lawsuit against Chesterfield County Public Schools is now in the hands of a jury.

The CCPS superintendent, Dr. Marcus Newsome, testified that it was the economy -not age- that led to a difficult decision regarding Debra Marlow, the former CCPS spokesperson who says she was forced out because she's too old.

Debra Marlow was relegated to the role of spectator Thursday, as her former boss, Dr. Marcus Newsome, defended against allegations of age bias.

In two hours of testimony, Newsome told a jury it was no secret Marlow "was uncomfortable with technology." He said, "She needed to work on enhancing her technology skills."

Marlow was the school division's long-time spokesperson until 2008 when she was re-assigned to a new job and her former assistant, Tim Bullis, got moved up. But a year later, Marlow's new job was cut in the recession.

Marlow pleaded to get back her old job, at the expense of Bullis, only to be denied on the basis -she claims- of technology skills. But Newsome tried to throw Marlow a life-raft of sorts; a new, slightly less paying, but still six-figure job focusing on her strengths.

"I thought she was better than Tim in building relationships," Newsome testified. "I wanted to make sure she was retained."

Instead, Marlow retired, claimed her benefits, and filed suit in federal court alleging the district discriminated against her because she is 60 years old.

In closing, the schools' attorney said losing the position "was a bad break" for Marlow, but not at all based on her age. The jury will begin deliberations first thing Friday morning. Marlow is seeking damages of at least $90,000 which the jury will consider if it rules in her favor Friday.

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