Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit with a Pennsylvania distributor of home heating oil. The EEOC charged that the company unlawfully fired a sales representative because of his age (71). According to the EEOC, the company’s sales manager made several comments that demonstrated a bias towards older workers, including stating that he would like to “remove all the older sales representatives and replace them with younger employees.” He also repeatedly asked the sales representative about his retirement plans and commented that he would retire if he was “as old” as the sales representative. After terminating the sales representative, he was replaced with a substantially younger employee.
According to Nancy Sasamoto, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) makes it unlawful to treat employees who are forty (40) or older less favorably than younger employees or to terminate them based on age. In light of the current economic conditions and ongoing reductions-in-force, Nancy reminds all employers that a careful analysis of age distributions must been done to reduce the risk of age-related claims due to a reduction-in-force. Nancy notes that employers can also reduce the risk of age-related claims as well as other employment claims through the use of a severance and release agreement.