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Times accused of age bias in lawsuit

By Times staff report
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 20, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- Former St. Petersburg Times reporter Jane Meinhardt has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the newspaper saying she was forced to retire last year.

Meinhardt, 52, said she was the oldest full-time reporter in the newspaper's Clearwater bureau when her supervisor began asking her in mid-2000 if she had "enough energy for the job," said a lawsuit filed on Friday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

Meinhardt, who worked at the Times and the now-defunct Evening Independent for 25 years, involuntarily retired on Dec. 31, 2000, the lawsuit said, after an editor removed her from the police beat and threatened to give her poor performance evaluations at any new job she was assigned. The suit said the editor questioned her aggressiveness as a reporter.

"We believe that there was a quest for youth in the newsroom," said Meinhardt's attorney, Catherine A. Kyres.

Times' attorneys denied allegations in the lawsuit, which seeks reinstatement, back pay, punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $15,000.

"This is rather shocking," said St. Petersburg attorney Alison Steele, who represents the Times. "The Times did not discriminate against Ms. Meinhardt for any reason."

Meinhardt first filed a discrimination complaint against the Times with the Florida Commission on Human Relations in June. The commission has not made any finding of fact in the case, Steele said.

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