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KC Chiefs Accused of Age Discrimination

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (CN) - A former community relations director for the Kansas City Chiefs claims the NFL team fired her because she is older than 40, and that she was axed as part of a pattern of age discrimination by Chiefs executives, including president Clark Hunt and general manager Scott Pioli.

Brenda Sniezek says she worked for the Chiefs from March 1982 until Jan. 26, 2011. She was 51 when she was laid off and replaced by a younger employee.

Sniezek says the discrimination began when Hunt hired Pioli in 2009 and the two men made public statements about changing the culture of the organization.

"On another occasion Pioli was overheard saying, 'We're going to get rid of everyone who was with Carl Peterson [the former general manager], especially anyone over the age of 40,'" according to the complaint in Jackson County Court.

Sniezek claims Hunt's and Pioli's attitudes spread throughout the Chiefs' organization. Seven other longtime employees older than 40 were fired and replaced with younger people, Sniezek says, and another longtime employee left shortly after a director's meeting on Jan. 5, 2011, at which several discriminatory remarks were made.

"On January 5, 2011 at a directors' meeting Mark Donovan was discussing playoff bonuses," the complaint states. "In response, the CFO Dan Crumb publicly stated, 'These old people around here think they're entitled to everything,' and in response two newly hired executives (in their early 30's) followed with their opinion of 'old people' and their expectations. President Donovan commented that this it the type of discussion 'I like to hear' at director's meetings. Afterwards, plaintiff felt a 'pit in her stomach.' Another director (in his mid-fifties) told plaintiff that he would not return to another director's meeting because of those venomous (ageist) comments, and soon he left the Chiefs." (Parentheses in complaint.)

Sniezek seeks actual and punitive damages for age discrimination.

She is represented by Dennis Egan of The Popham Law Firm in Kansas City, Mo.

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