The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently sued two manufacturing companies for age discrimination — announcing both lawsuits the same day.
On March 31, the EEOC filed its suit against Exact Sciences Laboratories, LLC, a Denver, CO-based company known for manufacturing the Cologuard colon cancer screening test (EEOC v. Exact Sciences Laboratories LLC, No.1:23-cv-00817 (March 31, 2023)).
The EEOC alleged the company turned down a job candidate for a medical sales representative role because, despite his qualifications, “the company was seeking ‘more junior’ job applicants.” Exact Sciences said the candidate’s asking salary was too high; then the team hired a younger worker and paid them more than the aforementioned asking salary.
This violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, according to EEOC. The ADEA protects talent — both potential and existing employees — aged 40 years or older from employment discrimination based on their age. The act applies to private-sector employers with 20 or more employees, along with “state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations and the federal government.”
Regarding recruiting, the ADEA makes it generally unlawful to “include age preferences, limitations, or specifications in job notices or advertisements.”
Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix district (which encompasses Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico), noted a federal precedent wherein courts have recognized use of phrases such as “too senior” or “overqualified” as ageist euphemisms in recruiting. “Employers should hire the best candidates based on job qualifications, not based on cultural stereotypes about older workers,” O’Neill said in the EEOC’s press release on the lawsuit.
The same day, EEOC announced a lawsuit against Ponchatoula, Louisiana-based J&M Industries, Inc (EEOC v. J&M Industries, Inc. No. 2:23-cv-01100 (March 30, 2023)). Following a former worker’s refusal to retire when she turned 65, leadership fired her, the EEOC suit claims.
Prior to her 65th birthday, J&M Industries managers allegedly hounded her to quit by asking her questions including, “When are you going to retire?”, “Why don’t you retire at 65?” and “What is the reason you are not retiring?”
After the worker refused, leadership told her that her role was eliminated “due to economic uncertainty.”
Weeks after she was fired, the eliminated role was filled by a man in his 30s. Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston district office (which covers parts of Texas as well as Louisiana), reiterated in a press statement that employers “cannot fire someone because of age and cannot pressure an employee to retire simply because she turns 65.”