Hugh Rosenthal

Two years after being terminated at Faygo, a soda pop company known for making old-fashioned soda, the grandson of founder Hugh Rosenthal is suing his grandfather’s company, claiming he was fired merely because of his age.

Rosenthal was fired 2012 when he was marketing director and was 66. He was the third generation of Rosenthals to work at Faygo. He began as director of marketing in 1992.

When Rosenthal was fired two years ago in July, he filed a discrimination charge the same day with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Last April, the EEOC granted Rosenthal the right to sue, and he filed suit in the US District Court last week.

Rosenthal first learned that he was losing his job in late 2011 when he saw a job ad for Faygo on Careerbuilder.com. He learned that he was to train his replacement, after which his employment would end, according to Rosenthal’s lawsuit.

“My first reaction was that I was betrayed by my friends,” said Rosenthal. “I had been going to lunch with these guys for 20 years every day. Then I was angry. My work record was as good as a work record could be. … There was no legitimate business reason to let me go.”

The reasons Faygo provided for letting Rosenthal go “were inaccurate, untrue,” and “manufactured,” according to Rosenthal’s suit, although the suit does not list the reasons.

Grandson of Faygo Pop Suing the Family Business Over Ageism (4)Faygo contends that Rosenthal was an independent contractor–and so not protected by the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), under which Rosenthal is suing the company.

Rosenthal’s suit seeks lost wages and damages. “I’m hoping Faygo comes to their senses and says, ‘OK, we’re sorry. We shouldn’t have terminated you,’” Rosenthal said.

Grandson of Faygo Pop Suing the Family Business Over Ageism (7)The ADEA was signed in under former US President Lyndon B. Johnson, and forbade age discrimination of people over 40. Since 1986 it has also prohibited mandatory retirement in many sectors.

Case law relevant to Rosenthal’s suit includes Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab (2008), in which it was decided that employers bear the burden of proving that a lay-off was not based on age.

The ADEA contains remedies for reinstatement, or back pay and damages if reinstatement is not feasible or the employers violation was intentional.

Faygo was started in Detroit, Michigan in 1907 as the Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works by two Russian brothers. The first uses of the soda flavors grape, strawberry and fruit punch were inspired by the brothers cake frosting recipes. The company was turned over to the sons of the founders in the 1940s. Faygo was sold out of the family in 1987 to National Beverage Corp.

By Day Blakely Donaldson


Battle Creek Enquirer

Detroit News