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The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a plant manager laid off by General Electric Co. did not get a fair trial on his claims of age discrimination. The court ordered a new trial, but did not decide the validity of Stephen Jacobs’ bias claim. The high court ruled unanimously that Superior Court Judge Julia Aurigemma improperly instructed the jury on the burden of proof and should not have allowed testimony from employees not involved in the decision to lay him off. “I’m thrilled that we will be given the opportunity to present Mr. Jacobs’ case to another jury,” said his attorney, Jacques Parenteau. “I do think he’s going to win.” Fairfield, Conn.-based GE denied age played a role in the decision to lay off Jacobs in 2001 as part of a work force reduction. Jacobs, who was 54 at the time, had worked since 1996 at the GE plant in Bridgeport, Conn., as manager of fabrication and sourcing. “We did not discriminate against the plaintiff,” said Gary Sheffer, a GE spokesman. “That’s what the jury believed at the close of the trial and the fact that the state Supreme Court found the judge made two technical errors does not change this. We’re prepared to try the case again.” Jacobs had such a hard time finding a new job that he dyed his gray hair red to look younger, Parenteau said. Jacobs eventually landed a job in New Jersey, but later moved to Florida. “It had a tremendous financial impact on him,” Parenteau said. “He could not afford to live here.” Jacobs said a GE manager told him the company considered age when making employment decisions. Of three employees who took over Jacobs’ responsibilities, two were younger than him and one held less job seniority. GE managers testified that they included Jacobs in the work force reduction based on his lack of experience and skills, which made him the most expendable member of the manufacturing operation. They also said the decision was made easier because Jacobs had said he intended to leave the job. “The jury found pretty quickly there was no discrimination,” said Richard Voigt, GE’s attorney. “With all due respect to the court, I think the judge’s instructions to the jury were clear.” Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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