A longtime Galt department head who was laid off earlier this year has filed suit against the city alleging age discrimination.
Boyce Jeffries, whose position was eliminated in May due to budget cuts, is suing the city based on comments City Manager Jason Behrmann made to the Galt Herald newspaper about why Jeffries was let go. He had served as parks and recreation director.
The lawsuit was filed last Friday. Jeffries, who lives in Acampo, is suing for an undisclosed amount of lost wages and benefits and attorney costs, and has requested a jury trial.
When reached by phone, Jeffries said Thursday the layoff has been devastating to him and his family following his 25 years of service. “To be treated the way I was just wasn’t right,” he added.
“Employment at his age isn’t exactly easy to come about,” said Lawrance Bohm, Jeffries’ attorney, who estimates his client’s recoverable amount at between $300,000 to more than a million dollars.
“This case is unique,” Bohm added. “In most of the termination cases, there is some issue of misconduct. In this case, Boyce was beloved. It’s just a darn shame.”
But Behrmann said Thursday the decision to lay off employees was not made lightly and was strictly based on the unprecedented financial challenges faced by the city in closing a $1 million-plus deficit.
“I have never given any other reason for the layoffs or the positions,” he said.
In addition to layoffs, remaining employees have endured furloughs and other cuts.
“I have great concern for all of our employees, but also feel a great obligation to always do what is in the best interest of the city of Galt,” Behrmann said.
The jobs held by Jeffries, then 54, and two others also in their 50s were cut when the City Council approved the 2011-12 annual budget last spring.
Community Development Director Curt Campion, then 55, was among those employees. Both he and Jeffries were offered an early retirement incentive that would have boosted their retirement benefits by two years service, but only Campion accepted it. The third employee, a police sergeant, was essentially demoted to fill a vacant officer position.
On March 16, the same day the men received notice their positions might be eliminated, Behrmann was quoted in the Galt Herald that in considering layoffs he looked for older, more experienced employees whom he felt had a strong chance of “landing on their feet” in terms of finding subsequent employment, should they decide not to retire, according to the claim.
“These employees have nice pensions and nice benefits for the rest of their lives,” Behrmann said in the article.
Bohm said this was the only information attorneys had to go on. “If Jason wouldn’t have been publicly quoted, it would be a lot more difficult to make the case,” he said.
Behrmann, who deems those comments inaccurate, contends that’s the only evidence provided in Jeffries’ lawsuit to support the allegation of age discrimination.
“The necessity of the layoffs and the explanation regarding which positions were chosen has been openly discussed and explained, and at no time was age a consideration for the decisions that were made,” he said.
None of three positions have been reinstated, a savings Behrmann previously estimated of about $550,000.
Jeffries was among the top earners in the city. In 2007, his annual salary was $162,000 and ranked sixth among Galt employees.
He was hired by the city’s parks and recreation department in 1984 and 13 years later was named director.
During his tenure, he received public recognition including being nominated for Employee of the Year and receiving a commendation from former Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti for Jeffries work on the Gora Aquatic Center.
In 2007, he was appointed to serve on a committee for Central Valley division of the League of California Cities.
“The city of Galt wasn’t a passing job for him,” Bohm said. “He helped build that community. It’s a sad thing when we target our older employees.”
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.