Armed Forces National Bank, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Dickinson Financial Corp., the bank's holding company, have agreed to pay a former employee $215,000 to settle an age discrimination suit.

In agreeing to the cash settlement Dec. 15, the bank did not admit wrongdoing. The settlement was announced this month.

In 1992, Roy Paradise, a 59-year-old Armed Forces senior vice president, was demoted to branch manager. Mr. Paradise, who was succeeded by a man in his early 40s and later fired, filed an age discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "He was the oldest of the senior vice presidents, and it seems on that basis, they were getting rid of him," said Thomas J. Borek, the commission's senior trial attorney who handled the case.

In its defense, the bank filed with the commission two disciplinary letters put in Mr. Paradise's personnel file after his demotion, one for leaving early from a company cocktail party and another for giving an incomplete presentation on Armed Forces at an industry conference.

Mr. Paradise was fired a few months later for his role in granting three loans that the bank alleged violated its policy. Mr. Borek countered that the disciplinary letters and subsequent firing were in retaliation for Mr. Paradise's age discrimination complaint. "They went back through their records to find anything they could use against him," Mr. Borek said.

Paul H. Shepherd, president of Kansas City., Mo.-based Dickinson, would not comment on the specifics of the case. But he said Dickinson had settled it through a mediator to minimize financial risk. Mr. Shepherd said the settlement is roughly what the bank would have spent on legal fees if Mr. Paradise's case had gone to trial. Mr. Paradise could not be reached for comment.

Of the 15,785 age discrimination complaints filed last year, the EEOC got 316 from banking industry employees. That was down from 394 complaints in 1996 and 429 in 1995."

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