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Ex-employee wins verdict vs. StorageTek

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

LOS ANGELES — After nearly two years of litigation, a California jury has awarded a former Storage Technology Corp. employee $11.9 million as part of a wrongful-termination suit.

In a June 29 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, StorageTek said it “intends to vigorously seek to overturn and/or reduce the award.”

Ted Marx, a former account executive for the Louisville-based company in Southern California, filed his wrongful-termination suit in August 2002, claiming he was wrongfully denied more than $110,000 in sales commissions.

In Marx’s initial complaint, he said he was informed in April 2001 that the incentive plan under which he was being paid “was being changed to exclude large incentive payments on signed orders, which were already earned by plaintiff. Thus the plan was given retroactive effect to avoid paying plaintiff monies on orders that were already signed pursuant to the incentive plan.”

When he complained about the retroactive nature of the change, his district and regional sales managers told him “if he pursued his complaints, punitive and retaliatory action would be taken against him,” the suit said.

In the suit, Marx alleges retaliatory action began about May 17, 2001, when the company began reducing his sales territory and withdrawing lucrative client accounts.

In September 2001, Marx filed a claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement in California, “seeking full payment of the wages due him pursuant to the incentive plan,” the complaint said. By the time he was fired Dec. 28, 2001, his sales territory and client accounts were reduced about 80 percent.

Marx sought damages for wrongful termination, retaliation in violation of labor codes, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, failure to pay wages due, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A jury in Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County awarded him $9 million in punitive damages and $2.9 million in compensatory damages to cover lost wages, emotional distress and commissions.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Brian Panish of Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler LLP, refused to comment. Officials at StorageTek did not return phone calls.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.