A 69-year-old former sales representative of Fior di Sole, the parent company of Ca’ Momi Winery in Napa, is suing the company for allegedly firing him for being “too old.”
The sales representative, Joseph White, who resides in Kansas, says in his lawsuit that he was fired shortly after his age was revealed to coworkers and following an employer-sponsored mandatory seminar with spiritual undertones that he opted out of attending. The company denies the allegation.
White began working for Qauterna, which is currently known as Fior di Sole, as a regional sales manager in 2014, selling wine in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, according to the suit.
In April 2015, White and other regional sales managers were at a meeting in Napa when the national sales manager asked aloud what White’s age was, the suit alleges. Although he didn’t answer at first, White eventually admitted that he was 67 years old. In response, the suit alleges, the manager said that White was “too old” to work in the industry.
During the final two days of the three-day meeting, there was a mandatory seminar on “Sacred Commerce,” which was described as “a manual for building a spiritual community at the workplace,” according to the lawsuit. White, an observant Roman Catholic, and another employee who were both uncomfortable with the religious undertone of the seminar, requested to leave early in order to attend Catholic Mass, the suit asserts. Afterwards, the suit alleges, both employees were criticized for having left.
White was fired on May 1, 2015 due to “restructuring,” according to the suit. Toward the end of the month, the company changed its justification for firing White, saying it was due to a “lack of performance in sales,” the suit alleges.
Fior di Sole denies any wrongdoing.
“Out of respect for Mr. White’s privacy, we’re not able to comment on the details of the litigation,” said the company’s attorney, David Dell of Coombs and Dunlap in Napa. Dell said that the company takes great pride in complying with the law and in treating its employees with respect and fairness.
White’s San Francisco-based attorney, Charles J. Wisch, filed the complaint in Napa County Superior Court last month after White had exhausted administrative options. Fior di Sole, LLC, Ca’ Momi Winery and Ca’ Momi Restaurants, LLC are listed as defendants in the suit in addition to Ca’ Momi’s owners, Dario de Conti, Stefano Migotto, and Valentina Guolo-Migotta.
“Mr. White was deeply hurt by the way in which he was treated,” Wisch said. “He felt he had given loyalty to the defendants, which was repaid by him summarily being terminated.”