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Ex-manager files age bias suit against Walgreens

The 54-year-old, who has worked for the drugstore chain for 38 years, was demoted and forced to take a $40,000 pay cut.

By DUANE BOURNE
Published May 8, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - Carl Toth began his career in the drugstore business working the soda fountain counter at a neighborhood pharmacy.

In 1965, Toth landed a job with Walgreens, working at various locations before becoming manager of the store on the State Road 50 bypass about 20 years ago.

That was until 2002, when, Toth said, his employer forced him to take a demotion and a $40,000 pay cut, or face being fired.

The reason, Toth and his lawyers say, was because his time was up; he was too old and too costly.

Monday, the 54-year-old Toth filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the Walgreen Co., one of the nation's largest drugstore chains.

The three-page complaint alleges that since 2001, when management changed at the store at 19450 Cortez Blvd., "(Toth) has been treated in a disparate manner in comparison to younger store managers."

The lawsuit comes more than six months after Toth petitioned the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming his civil rights had been violated. Neither agency had reported its findings when Toth filed the lawsuit, Wolfe said.

"This happens when you get to be a certain age and you get to be too expensive and they find a way to get you out of the position so they can replace you with someone with half a salary," said James Sheehan, one of the lawyers representing Toth. "That's the name of the game."

Sheehan and co-counsel Richard Wolfe allege that after working at Walgreens for almost four decades, Toth began receiving various complaints from management about his performance.

"Traditionally, when they have the idea that they want you to leave, they start nitpicking," said Wolfe, adding that in the years Toth was store manager he received positive evaluations.

On March 7, 2002, Toth was advised by the district manager that he could accept a demotion to assistant store manager or be fired.

Toth took the demotion to assistant store manager, and his salary was cut from $70,000 to $30,000 a year, according to Wolfe. He still works at the store. Five other managers at stores throughout the region resigned, having been forced to take similar demotions, he said.

"He stuck in there when a lot of people would have walked away," said Wolfe. "I think this is a classic example of how employers get rid of older employees. The reason this case jumps out to me is because of the length of his stay at Walgreens. It's a long time to work for one company."

Carol Hively, spokeswoman for the Deerfield, Ill.-based company, would not comment on the pending litigation. There are 587 Walgreens stores in Florida.

- Duane Bourne can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to dbourne@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 8, 2003, 02:01:28]

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