Jury Rejects Age-Bias Suit Against ‘St. Petersburg Times’

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(AP) A jury rejected a former reporter’s claim that the St. Petersburg Times discriminated against her because of her age.

A jury in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court deliberated for an hour Monday before rejecting Jane Meinhardt’s lawsuit, which alleged that the newspaper’s management displayed age-related bias against her and forced her to accept a retirement package in 2000 when she was 51.

The newspaper’s attorneys said editors decided to remove Meinhardt from covering police and offer her a retirement package because her performance was not meeting the paper’s standards, not because of her age.

Meinhardt’s attorney, Catherine Kyres, had argued that her client, the oldest reporter at the newspaper’s Clearwater bureau, had built a “stellar” career before she was replaced by a reporter 24 years her junior. Kyres contended that the newspaper’s standards, as applied to Meinhardt, were so stringent that no reporter could meet them.

Newspaper attorney Alison Steele acknowledged that Meinhardt had showed talent, but asserted that she failed to demonstrate quality work consistently. Steele also denied that Meinhardt had been forced to retire, saying her supervisor had offered as an alternative a general-assignment reporting job.

Meinhardt worked for 25 years at the Times and the former Evening Independent, both owned by The Times Publishing Co. She now is a reporter for The Tampa Bay Business Journal.

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