Matsushita Wins Quasar Appeal
CHICAGO - A federal appeals court yesterday overturned a $2.5 million award to three former Quasar Co. executives who claimed they were dismissed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd of Japan because of their national origin.
The Seventh Circuit Federal Appeals court reversed a U.S. District Court ruling that Matsushita discriminated against the three Americans when they lost their jobs in a 1986 reorganization.
Plaintiffs John Fortino, now 61, former Quasar advertising manager; F. William Schultz, now 56, former distribution manager; and Carl Meyers, now 57, former sales administration manager; claimed that Japanese executives at Quasar were allowed to keep their jobs.
"As far as the national origin issue is concerned, that has been completely reversed," said Justin Camerlengo, a Matsushita spokesman in Secaucus, N.J.
Quasar is a consumer electronics manufacturer.
The three-judge panel ruled that Quasar's decision to treat Japanese executives differently than Americans was based on citizenship rather than national origin. Such action is not prohibited by federal civil rights laws, the court ruled.
The appeals court said Matsushita had the right to put Japanese executives in key positions at Quasar, which it acquired in the mid 1980s, by virtue of commercial treaties signed by the United States and Japan.
"This was favoritism all right, but discrimination in favor of foreign executives given a special status by virtue of a treaty and its implementing regulations is not equivalent to discrimination on the basis of national origin," wrote Judge Richard Posner, author of the appeals panel's decision.
But the appeals court granted a new trial on age discrimination claims filed by Schultz and Meyers, ruling that the district court made prejudicial and erroneous findings, Matsushita said.
Camerlengo said Matsushita was confident that it would prevail in the new trial.
The court said Fortino could not bring a new lawsuit on the age issue because of a release he signed in exchange for severance benefits.
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