CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - A longtime equipment manager claims the St. Louis Rams fired him because of his age.
Todd Hewitt sued the St. Louis Rams Partnership and three other Rams entities, in St. Louis County Court.
Hewitt claims he worked in the Rams equipment department for 40 years and was the team's equipment manager from 1985 until he was fired on Jan. 7, 2011. He followed the team to St. Louis when it moved from Los Angeles in 1995 and was named the NFL Equipment Manager of the Year in 1997.
But Hewitt says things changed when the Rams hired head coach Steve Spagnuolo in January 2009.
"During the time that Mr. Spagnuolo was the head coach for the Rams, he made statements to Mr. Hewitt about his age, including in 2009, when he told him he was too old for his job," the complaint states.
"Mr. Spagnuolo also told Mr. Hewitt that his employment was 'NFL' which means 'Not For Long' employment."
Hewitt says Spagnuolo called him into his office on Jan. 7, 2011 and in front of former General Manager Bill Devaney told him "that they were going in a different direction and they were not going to retain him."
When Spagnuolo fired him, Hewitt says, he was less than 10 months away from being eligible for extended health benefits for himself and his family, which would have made him eligible for early retirement.
"After being fired, Mr. Hewitt contacted one of the team's owners, Chip Rosenbloom, who told him that his firing 'shouldn't have happened,'" the complaint states.
Hewitt claims he isn't the only one Spagnuolo sacked due to age. He claims that at least six others Rams' employees were fired or were forced into retirement during Spagnuolo's tenure, including Dan Linza (age 70, head of security); John Oswald (52, vice president of operations); Jim Anderson (54, trainer); Ray Ogas (60, director of player relations); Pam Benoist (68, skybox coordinator); and Bill Stover (64, team photographer).
Kevin Demoff, the Rams executive vice-president of football operations and chief operating officer, was out of the country and unavailable for comment, a Rams spokeswoman told Courthouse News.
The Rams fired Spagnuolo and Devaney in January 2012, after a disappointing 2-14 season. Spagnuolo had a 10-38 record during his three seasons as Rams head coach.
Hewitt seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act. He is represented by Mary Anne Sedey with Sedey Harper in St. Louis.