Terminated worker says he was replaced with lower-wage employee

Kelly Holleran Sep. 11, 2009, 1:25am

A Missouri man says he was wrongfully terminated so his employer could hire other workers for less pay.

Dwayne Lawrence filed a lawsuit Sept. 2 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis, Caliber Management, Caliber Auto Transfer Companies, Caliber Auto Transfer, Inc. and Scott Davenport.

Lawrence says he was hired by the defendants to perform vehicle loading services primarily in Venice, but also in St. Louis.

As part of his employment contract, Lawrence's employer was supposed to pay union dues so that he would be entitled to union representation, according to the complaint.

While Lawrence worked, he did not receive wages equal to the general prevailing rate of hourly wages for similar work in that area, the suit states.

Still, Lawrence continued his employment through Feb. 24, 2008, when he was informed that he and his co-workers were being laid off because there was not enough work for them, the suit states.

However, Lawrence and his co-workers later learned they were terminated so the company could replace them with other employees at a lower rate, the complaint says.

"When plaintiff and his co-workers learned that the purported reason for the lay off was, in fact, bogus and was fraudulent, plaintiff and his co-workers sought out union representation for purposes of retaining their employment and/or receiving all rights and remedies which would have been available to plaintiff and his co-workers under the law," the suit states.

But Lawrence claims he and his fellow employees discovered union representation was not available to them because the defendants had failed to pay the promised union dues.

In addition, after Lawrence and his co-workers attempted to go to the union, the defendants reported to local governmental agencies that Lawrence and his fellow employees left their jobs voluntarily and had engaged in misconduct during their employment, according to the complaint.

"Defendants made such representations, accusations and charges knowing full well such were completely baseless and would interfere with benefits needed by plaintiff and his co-workers in order to have income and in order to purchase groceries and other essential needs," the suit states.

Because of his termination and denial of union representation, Lawrence suffered a deprivation of income, lost his employment benefits, suffered emotionally and incurred many expenses in an attempt to pursue his rights, according to the complaint.

In the five-count suit, Lawrence is seeking a judgment of more than $100,000, compensatory damages of more than $150,000, exemplary damages of more than $100,000 and punitive damages of more than $50,000, plus costs.

Peter J. Maag and Brian M. Wendler of Wendler Law in Edwardsville will be representing him.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-467.

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