Two former longtime San Francisco 49ers employees have sued the team in a federal age discrimination lawsuit, claiming they were unjustly fired to make way for younger technology workers as the team prepared to move to Santa Clara.
Facility manager Anthony Lozano was fired in 2011 at age 56 after 22 years on the job. Video operations director Keith Yanagi was fired the same year at age 59 after 25 years with the team, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco on Friday.
The suit claims that 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York began an alleged strategy to “rebrand the 49ers as a technology startup” in 2011 and as part of that effort wanted to hire young technology workers from Silicon Valley near the new stadium in Santa Clara.
“In order to make room for the younger technology workers, York engaged in a campaign to terminate the older, senior managers within the 49ers organization,” the lawsuit alleges.
The team moved to its new stadium last fall.
Lozano and Yanagi say in the lawsuit they both had excellent evaluations. They say they were fired by two different managers, both of whom said the organization was “going in a different direction” but could not give further explanations.
The lawsuit claims the team violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the federal Older Workers Benefit Protection Act and a state fair employment law.
The protection law requires that when an employer fires older workers as a group, the employer must provide certain safeguards, such as giving workers 45 days to consider proposed severance agreements and disclosing the ages and classifications of the other fired workers so the workers can decide whether to sue.
The suit claims both the team and York caused the two men emotional distress and engaged in alleged fraud by concealing that employees were fired as part of a group termination of older workers.
It asks for financial compensation for loss of work and emotional distress and an additional punitive financial award.
San Francisco 49ers spokesman Bob Lange said, “I am sorry but we never comment on pending litigation. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.”
A case management conference is scheduled in the court of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco on April 10.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News