LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A 66-year-old Los Angeles man who claimed he was harassed and discriminated against at his job at a Staples store has been awarded $26 million by a jury, according to reports.

KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports an attorney for Bobby Dean Nickel says the judgment is the largest award of its kind in the city’s legal history.

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According to the lawsuit filed in March 2012 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Nickel, who was 64 when he lost his job, was originally hired by Corporate Express in August of 2002 as a facilities manager. Staples Contract and Staples Inc. acquired Corporate Express in 2008.

Nickel received positive job reviews for nine years before he was accused of stealing a 68-cent bell pepper from the company cafeteria, according to the lawsuit. He was terminated on July 29, 2011.

Jury members deliberated for nearly two days before they awarded him $3.2 million in compensatory damages and more than $22.8 million in punitive damages.

Nickel’s lawyer, Carney Shegerian, said his client suffered years of insults – including being referred to as and “old coot” and “old goat” – and was the victim of a campaign to push older, higher-paid workers out.

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“Staples tried to use the recession card and say, ‘We have to make these cuts’,” said Shegerian. “But the reality is, and what the jury saw, is that not only were they not affected by the recession, but they took advantage of the recession to cut these older workers.”

A receptionist told Nickel she was ordered by management to provide a false statement about Nickel’s conduct but she refused to do so, according to the lawsuit.

Defense attorneys claimed Nickel violated the company’s zero-tolerance policy on dishonesty of any kind.

In a statement, a Staples spokesperson said they disagree with the verdict and intend to further pursue this matter through the courts.

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