After years of ignoring the problem of age discrimination in employment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) appears to have turned a corner.
In September, the EEOC filed four age discrimination lawsuits, settled one age discrimination lawsuit and won a jury verdict in an age discrimination case.
The significance of this activity is apparent when one considers that for the entire year in 2016 the EEOC filed only TWO lawsuits with age discrimination claims. And the EEOC’s performance was not much better last year, when it filed 10 lawsuits with age discrimination claims. Typically, the EEOC receives around 20,000 age discrimination complaints a year.
Why the change? It may not be coincidental that the EEOC has a new Republican chairperson, Janet Dhillon, and a two-person Republican majority.
The Obama administration ignored age discrimination throughout the Great Recession, when the problem reached epidemic proportions. President Barack Obama in 2010 signed an executive order which remains in effect today and permits the federal government to engage in age discrimination in hiring. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce taunted the EEOC in court filings in 2015 for operating a discriminatory hiring program, the EEOC Attorney Honor Program.
Here is a run-down of the EEOC’s activity in September:
The EEOC won a six-day jury trial in Brooklyn, NY, that resulted in an award of $458,000 in lost wages to two sales employees who were discharged because of their age in 2014 by AZ Metro Distributors, LLC, a beverage distributor. Moreover, the jury found that AZ Metro’s actions were “willful,” which is expected to result in a doubling of the damages awarded to the fired employees, Archibald Roberts and Cesar Fernandez. At the trial, the EEOC presented evidence that the company’s top sales manager “wanted a younger sales force,” and hired much younger salespeople. AZ Metro had maintained that Roberts and Fernandez were not discharged, but had voluntarily resigned.
The EEOC reached a settlement with Hydro Extrusion USA, LLC an Illinois-based aluminum fabricator with approximately 20 plants throughout North America, to resolve allegations of age discrimination raised by a former employee at its South Dakota plant. The EEOC determined Hydro violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) when it refused to select an older worker for a supervisor position at its Yankton, S.D., plant after a reorganization, and instead selected several less qualified, much younger employees. The EEOC said Hydro’s “succession planning” and promotion practices excluded older worker. The settlement requires Hydro to compensate the fired employee and implement policies that ensure future employment decisions are made based on objective, job-related criteria without regard to the age of the employee.
- The EEOC sued Davis Automotive Group, Inc., doing business as BMW Cleveland, an automobile dealership located in Solon, Ohio, for allegedly discriminating against a former employee by refusing to re-hire her because of her age (52), and for terminating two sales employees because of their ages (67 and 70).
- The EEOC sued M1 5100 Corporation, doing business as Jumbo Supermarket, Inc., for allegedly firing a qualified employee because of her age. The 57-year-old employee arrived to work for her regularly scheduled shift as Cook Manager at a Jumbo Supermarket in Lake Worth, Fl, and discovered the store had hired her replacement, who was about 20 years younger. The general manager allegedly commented, “Look old lady, we have to give opportunities to new people, old lady . . . it is time for you to rest.” The EEOC the terminated employee performed her job well and never received any disciplinary write-ups for her work performance.
“Look old lady, we have to give opportunities to new people, old lady . . . it is time for you to rest.”
- The EEOC sued SAI Investments LLC, a jewelry retailer in Alaska that does business as Miner’s Gems, for allegedly refusing to hire a 57-year old applicant with experience as a sales associate and instead hiring less experienced applicants who were younger. Two different recruiters who worked for SAI allegedly made negative remarks about Lori Burke’s age during separate interviews in March 2018, and told her that SAI typically hired applicants in their twenties.
- The EEOC sued the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) for allegedly discharging a manager, Jeffrey Thomas, who supervised the IT help desk, because he alerted officials that his department head instructed staff to give hiring preference to millennials over older applicants. According to the EEOC, in 2014, KUMC’s associate vice chancellor for information resources and chief information officer advised managers in the information resources department to focus on hiring younger people. A KUMC internal investigation confirmed Thomas’s allegations and identified at least one instance where an applicant was not hired because of her age.