DETROIT – Former Detroit Lions great and Hall of Famer Lem Barney filed a discrimination lawsuit Friday against a Detroit health system, alleging he was fired because of his age.
Barney, a defensive back with the Lions in the 1960s and '70s, alleges that his supervisor at Detroit Medical Center once asked him, "why don't you just retire already?" after noting he was in his 60s and made a lot of money playing professional football. The 67-year-old also said he was fired after running afoul of a supervisor by signing too many autographs for fans.
Detroit Medical Center officials declined comment.
Barney began working as the medical center's director of physician relations and replacement in 2006. He was fired in February, just weeks after returning to work after back surgery, following two demotions. At the time, his pay had been cut from $80,000 per year to $30,000, and he was reduced to handing out parking passes to patients' families, the lawsuit alleges.
"Suing DMC was a last resort," Barney said in a statement released by his attorney. "I need to keep working, but they seemed to think I should retire and they forced me out."
The lawsuit is seeking $270,000 in damages. It also alleges that the medical center violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by dismissing Barney shortly after his surgery.