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New trial ordered in lawsuit against Tyson Foods

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[December 30, 2011]  FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- A new trial has been ordered in a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Tyson Foods Inc.

The ruling, published Wednesday, by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, overturns a federal jury's verdict that awarded Retha Weems $600,000 in her discrimination claim against the Springdale-based company.

Weems argued that she was demoted as a plant manager by Tyson because of her gender and later passed over for another plant manager job in favor of two men.

Tyson appealed the verdict and a three judge panel ruled that a federal judge was wrong to allow the jury to hear about a separation agreement Tyson offered to Weems. The agreement would have settled Weems' complaints for a portion of her salary and medical benefits, if she left her job.

The judges agreed with Tyson's argument that the separation proposal was an offer to compromise with Weems and said its introduction prejudiced the jury against Tyson.

Weems remains a Tyson employee, company spokesman Worth Sparkman told the Northwest Arkansas Times (http://bit.ly/tACGnF).

Sparkman declined comment on the court's ruling.

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A secretary for Weems' attorney, Stephen Lee Wood of Rogers, told the newspaper that Wood is out of the office this week.

Wood had argued that the judge's error was harmless and did not significantly impact their verdict.


Information from: Northwest Arkansas Times, http://www.nwaonline.com/

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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