Santa Barbara inn fires food/beverage director for being "no spring chicken." $545K. Santa Barbara County.


Long-time restaurateur  tells manager he's "no spring chicken" and orders him to train a younger female as assistant F&B director.  

The Case

  • Case Name: Charles Saccio v. Antonio R. Romasanta, DBA Eladio’s Restaurant
  • Court and Case Number: Santa Barbara Superior Court / 15CV00672
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, November 22, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, April 27, 2015
  • Type of Case: Defamation, Employment, Harassment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Donna Geck
  • Plaintiffs:
    Charles Saccio, 64, food and beverage director.
  • Defendants:
    Antonio R. Romasanta, DBA Eladio’s Restaurant
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $545,777
  • Net Verdict or Award: $545,777
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past economic loss: $38,800

    Future economic loss: $31,777

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic loss: $75,000

  • Punitive Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 days total.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 1/2 hours (liability, damages); 1 1/2 hours (punitive damages)
  • Jury Polls: 10-2 on liability; 10-2 on punitive damages. Verdict for plaintiff on employment age discrimination; hostile work environment; failure to prevent harassment and discrimination, and defamation.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of David S. Secrest, P.C. by David S. Secrest, Santa Barbara.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Price, Postel & Parma LLP by Melissa J. Fassett, Santa Barbara.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    George A. Jouganatos, Ph.D., economics, Sacramento.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    John Nordstrand, economics, Santa Barbara.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant Antonio Romasanta, 84, owns and operates Eladio’s Restaurant/Harbor View Inn as a DBA. Plaintiff Saccio was hired January 13, 2013 as the food & beverage director, reporting to Mark Romasanta, General Manager, defendant’s son. After one year of employment, GM Mark Romasanta gave plaintiff a favorable review, a bonus, and an $8,000 raise to $60,000. GM Romasanta testified he was satisfied with plaintiff’s performance as of June 9, 2014.

    On June 11, 2014, while GM Mark Romasanta was on vacation, defendant Romasanta called plaintiff, 64, to a meeting and asked: “How old are you?” “You’re no Spring Chicken!” “I’ve hired a young gal, about 30, who will be your assistant, you’re going to train her.” On June 12, 2014, plaintiff reported these questions/comments to Eladio’s HR Director, Carla Silva, per stated HR policies, expressing concern that he would be fired because of his age. In violation of stated policy, there was no investigation of this complaint, despite Silva’s report to GM Mark Romasanta, whose directive was: “My father is focused on the business issues and I have no control of his decisions.”

    On June 25, 2014 (two weeks later), Romasanta fired plaintiff based on unspecified performance deficiencies that were never documented, also in violation of stated policy (“Job Security”), which required progressive discipline, i.e., verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, etc. Romasanta again said, at the termination meeting itself: “You’re no Spring Chicken!” This was confirmed by former HR Director Silva, who resigned shortly after plaintiff was fired, but was located and deposed before trial.

    Rather than allow plaintiff to resign, Romasanta directed a termination letter be posted in his personnel file, stating the termination was “based on poor performance… failure to perform the duties of the position and the standard required… work performance and quality of work has not met our expectations.” Romasanta immediately replaced plaintiff with the 30-year-old female assistant  as food & beverage director. Three months later, she was accused of creating a hostile work environment by a subordinate. Complying with stated policy, the new HR Director for Eladio’s promptly investigated the claim, took statements from all parties, and issued a written warning to the female F&B director. Despite this event, as well as a detailed report of a cockroach infestation in Eladio’s kitchen, Romasanta subsequently gave her a raise to $60,000.


  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Liability for employment discrimination (age); hostile work environment; defamation.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    No liability, no damages, no settlement offer.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $38,800
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $55,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $125,000

Additional Notes

Trial testimony indicated Eladio’s had been profitable only one year since the 1990s.

Anticipated, statutory attorneys’ fees in excess of $250,000 before any lodestar enhancement.

Summary of Settlement Discussions: (1) Plaintiff offered to settle for $75,000 before filing suit (rejected by Romasanta). Case filed April 27, 2015. (2) Plaintiff served a CCP § 998 Offer for $125,000 June 25, 2015 (rejected by Romasanta). (3) CMADRESS Mediation with Henry Bongiovi January 7, 2016 (Romasanta offered to “waive cross-complaint” against Plaintiff); (4) MSC August 12, 2016, before Pro Tem Lawrence Dam (Romasanta offered nothing).