Engineer Fired Over Romantic Email Exchange Alleges Age Discrimination

Compose email

Photo: SEAN GLADWELL / Moment / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 70-year-old former Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. engineer is suing for age discrimination, alleging he was wrongfully fired in April after more than 50 years on the pretext he had sent inappropriate emails years earlier for which he apologized.

Joseph Ruggless' Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress and he seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A Lockheed Martin representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Thursday.

"For illegal ageist and retaliatory reasons, Ruggless was expelled from the company he had worked his entire lifetime based on a risque email exchange he had with a high school sweetheart in the 2005 time period," the suit states. "The punishment did not fit the crime and is a specious attempt at hiding defendant's greater goals of eliminating older employees."

Ruggless was hired in August 1973 and two years later he applied for an engineering and model building training program, completing it with one of the highest-level positions available to hourly Lockheed employees at that time, the suit states.

In 1977-80, Ruggless worked on several classified programs with some of the most knowledgeable engineers in the world and traveled nationwide to various test ranges, then later was promoted to engineering positions, according to the suit.

Ruggless created, designed and developed and developed a key process still used in the vehicle manufactured in Palmdale, according to the suit, which also states he represented the U.S. on the television show "Junkyard Mega-Wars" on the Learning Channel.

.Ruggless was later  promoted to production manager for the Palmdale Production Operations division, overseeing hundreds of employees in the manufacturing of components for the Lockheed Martin F22 Raptor, the suit further states. During his subsequent tenure on the F-35 program, Ruggless received multiple accolades and bonuses for reducing costs and shortening test spans, which improved and supported, the suit states.

However, in March the company's ethics officer told Ruggless that Lockheed had found inappropriate emails written in 2005-08 involving romantic exchanges the plaintiff had with a high school flame, some of which occurred over his work email, according to the suit, which further states that Ruggless "apologized earnestly for any lack of discretion."

Nonetheless, Ruggless received a termination letter in April and was told he had stored inappropriate material using a company-owned asset, according to the suit, which further states his appeal was denied.

"This unexpected dismissal, after decades of contributions and support from colleagues, caused immense emotional pain and a profound sense of injustice," the suit states.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content