A longtime Buffalo Bills employee should take his claims of age discrimination to an arbitrator, not the courts, a federal judge ruled this week.
In dismissing a suit by Dave Hojnowski, the Bills’ former equipment manager, Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny said Hojnowski’s contract with the team requires that his legal dispute be handled in arbitration.
Hojnowski filed a federal court suit in April claiming he was improperly fired by the Bills after 35 years on the job. The Bills claimed Hojnowski retired.
“We are pleased that the court has agreed with us,” said Scott P. Horton, a lawyer for the Bills. “Further, we continue to believe that Mr. Hojnowski’s claims against the Bills lack merit, and we intend to continue to defend our position in this matter."
In his suit, Hojnowski claims he was fired because of an inquiry his wife made about a health insurance benefit he would qualify for upon turning 55.
About a week later, according to the suit, Hojnowski was told by then-General Manager Buddy Nix that “things weren’t going well” and he was being fired.
The former Bills employee also claims he was just 15 months away from retirement age and qualifying for the post-retirement medical insurance benefit his wife had asked about.
“We’re going to arbitrate,”Andrew Fleming, Hojnowski’s lawyer, said of the his client’s strategy at this point. “We want to get to the merits of the case. We want to move forward.”
Known as HoJo by the players, Hojnowski was a fixture in the locker room for more than three decades and one of several Bills employees mentioned by former quarterback Jim Kelly in his Hall of Fame speech.
Hojnowski, a North Tonawanda resident, claims his departure from the team was the result of age discrimination.
He claims he was passed over for promotion in favor of an equipment manager 20 years his junior and that younger members of the staff often used derogatory terms when talking about his age.
He also says Nix asked him how old he was in 2012 and when he intended to retire.