An April trial date has been set in the age discrimination lawsuit a former J.C. Penney Co. Inc. employee has filed against the Salt Lake District of the J.C. Penney stores.

Former employee Joseph Francis contends he was fired from the Ogden J.C. Penney store because of his age. Francis is more than 40 years old. He was one of seven middle-level managers fired from the Salt Lake District stores in late 1987 as part of what J.C. Penney called a reduction in force, a court memorandum said.All seven were over 40 years old. All managers hired to replace those fired were under 40 years of age, the memorandum said.

The suit contends J.C. Penney violated the federal Age Discrimination and Employment Act as well as the Employment Retirement Income Security Act in firing Francis.

Francis' attorney, Scott Kunkel, said Francis is suing for back pay from Oct. 31, 1987, until the time of the trial. He is further seeking "front pay" dating from the conclusion of the trial until Francis' 65th birthday.

"We may go higher than 65," Kunkel said. "People are working longer these days."

Francis was operations/personnel manager at the Ogden store at the time he was fired, making more than $40,000 a year. He received positive employee ratings at the time he was fired from J.C. Penney, the memorandum said.

However, a court memorandum said J.C. Penney "alleges suspicion of (Francis') involvement in cash shortages at the Ogden store."

The Deseret New tried unsuccessfully to reach J.C. Penney's attorney for comment.

Francis' attorney noted in the memorandum that under Francis' supervision, the Ogden store where he worked met or beat district goals for salary savings, stockroom productivity, catalog sales and profits and store sales and profits for 1987 - the year he was fired.

It further noted that in early 1987, district officials put Francis in charge of the Ogden store's style salon, asking him to improve its sales and profit.

From the day he was put in charge of the salon to the day he was fired, "sales improved 12 percent and profits increased 32 percent," the suit said. "In 1987, the styling salon in the Ogden store had achieved the greatest improvement of any store in the district."

A jury trial is scheduled for April 22 in federal court.