Smart employers use a variety of methods to prevent age discrimination and other claims. Such mechanisms don’t happen by accident, but require careful attention to detail and a comprehensive hiring and firing program.
Recent case: Dulce Colon, who was born in 1959, was hired as an assistant housekeeping manager at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. The hiring manager did not know her age when he selected Colon.
Colon’s job was to make sure that rooms were ready for hotel guests and to inspect each room after the housekeeping staff cleaned. She received initial training on housekeeping standards.
Colon worked with several other assistant housekeeping managers, most of whom were older than 40. She received the same initial training all employees received.
But almost immediately, Colon had trouble. She was criticized for keeping guests waiting and for releasing a room that still contained a prior guest’s undergarments, among other things.
The hiring manager terminated Colon after just three months when her probationary period ended. He reposted the position and promoted a 27-year-old internal applicant—the only applicant—to the job.
Colon sued, alleging age discrimination. She pointed out that a substantially younger worker replaced her.
That wasn’t enough to keep the lawsuit going. The court said that no jury would conclude age was the reason Colon was terminated, based on the employer’s evidence that the hiring manager didn’t know Colon’s age and was the same manager who terminated her. The court noted that she failed to meet legitimate job expectations and that the younger replacement was actually the only applicant. The court also observed that Colon received the same training other employees did, including her replacement. (Colon v. Trump International, No. 10-Civ-4794, SD NY, 2011)