Managers and supervisors sometimes do stupid things—such as making statements older workers may interpret as ageist.
But ill-chosen words don’t guarantee a successful age discrimination lawsuit. That’s especially true if the comments were made many months before the employee was terminated or otherwise suffered alleged discrimination.
Recent case: Richard Kremp worked for Wachovia Bank. He claimed that months before he was fired at age 47 for alleged misconduct, his supervisors had made ageist statements. One boss allegedly said Kremp was a “dinosaur with a target on his back.” He sued.
However, the court said the supervisors’ statements alone weren’t enough to cast doubt on the performance issues that the bank said were the real reason he was terminated. (Kremp v. Wachovia Bank, No. 09-2847, DC NJ, 2010)
- When disciplining employees, equality is vital
- Gender barriers falling? Ensure equal treatment for both sexes
- Base light-duty policy on business necessity; enforce it consistently
- Hiring or promoting? OK to discount experience if it's trumped by other factors
- Sometimes, even harsh judges take pity on employers