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Former Johnston & Murphy employee sues for age discrimination

A former store manager with Johnston & Murphy has sued the shoe retailer for allegedly firing him for being too old.

Kristin Fitzgerald, who is in his early 50s, also claims he “was subjected to a barrage of age-disparaging comments” by a supervisor, according to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

A spokeswoman for Tennessee-based Genesco Inc., Johnston & Murphy’s parent company, declined to comment because the litigation is pending.

Fitzgerald began working with the retailer as a store manager in Northern Virginia in January 2009, according to the lawsuit. He was transferred to the Johnston & Murphy outlet in Queenstown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore later that year and then to help the outlet store in Hagerstown in 2012, according to the lawsuit.

While at Hagerstown, he was asked to help find a new manager, the complaint states. But when Fitzgerald found someone “comparable to his age,” his regional manager said the company was looking for “younger, hip” employees even though she was “not allowed to say that,” the complaint states.

In early 2013, Fitzgerald asked to be transferred to stores in Columbia or Annapolis, which are closer to his Bowie home, according to the lawsuit. But his bosses selected as managers for both stores “new hires in their mid-to-late-20s” with “far less management experience” than Fitzgerald, according to the lawsuit.

Fitzgerald also claims a supervisor “substantially younger than him” repeatedly said such things as, “old guys like you we need to keep around to train the young guys,” according to the complaint.

Fitzgerald was fired in January 2014 for not following a company policy even though he claims he was doing what he had trained to do and his actions were approved by corporate management, according to the lawsuit.

Johnston & Murphy subsequently hired as Fitzgerald’s replacement a man in his early 30s with less managerial experience, the complaint states.

Fitzgerald’s lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in compensatory damages and nearly $4 million in punitive damages, as well as lost wages and salary. He is represented by Joseph T. Mallon Jr. of Mallon & McCool LLC in Baltimore.

The case is Kristin Fitzgerald v. Genesco Inc., 8:15-cv-00968-DKC.