A woman who says she became the face of the company founded by aviation legend Clay Lacy is suing her former employer, alleging she was wrongfully laid off in 2020 at age 52 because of her age and gender in a workplace that increasingly became a “boys’ club.”

Julie Necessary’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Van Nuys-based Clay Lacy Aviation Inc. alleges wrongful termination, gender and age discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation, violation of the Equal Pay Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Necessary alleges a company executive once told her, “We all have to replace ourselves at some point.”

She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Tuesday. A representative for the company could not be immediately reached.

Necessary was hired in February 1990 as a bookkeeper for business development and through promotions became the vice president of client relations for the majority of her 30-year employment, never receiving any negative performance reviews or disciplinary action, the suit states.

“In fact, (Necessary) became the face of Clay Lacy to the company’s clients during her three decades of employment,” the suit states.

Necessary was involved in client/customer relations and services and developed and maintained positive and ongoing relationships over the years and in 2019, during a reorganization, the company changed Necessary’s title to vice president for customer service experience, the suit states.

Clay Lacy Aviation as founded in 1968 by Lacy, who has flown more than 300 aircraft types, logged more than 50,000 flight hours and accumulated more hours flying turbine aircraft than any other pilot in history.

Lacy, now 89, was the owner and CEO until retiring in 2012, when Brian Kirkdoffer, the current President and CEO, acquired the company, according to the suit. With Kirkdoffer’s arrival, the company atmosphere “increasingly transformed into a “boys’ club”’ in which there was increased favoritism for male employees, the suit states.

“It was apparent that leadership, including Mr. Kirkdoffer, preferred to hire and/or promote younger men into leadership and/or executive roles,” the suit alleges.

Necessary once assisted in creating a leadership program to connect the company with client relations and presented her work to management, the suit states. The company thanked Necessary for her work and contribution, but gave the project to a younger male employee to manage and provided him with the recognition for the work done the suit states.

After Necessary complained about the 2019 reorganization and the company changes during a meeting with Clay Lacy Aviation COO David Lamb, he responded, “We all have to replace ourselves at some point,” the suit states.

Necessary was fired via a telephone call in October 2020 and told it was due to a downturn in business caused by the coronavirus, even though the company received a $27 million grant under the federal CARES Act, the suit states.

“Ms. Necessary was shocked by the sudden and unexpected termination of her employment,” the suit states. “She had never received any warning or notice that her role would be eliminated with Clay Lacy.”

No other executives or persons in leadership were laid off, the suit states.

In addition, in September 2020 Clay Lacy Aviation won an award with Orange County for a 35-year lease at John Wayne Airport to build and operate a fixed base operation at the airport, demonstrating that the company has continued to expand operations during the coronavirus, the suit states.

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