Jury awards Temple University exec assistant $850K in age discrimination suit
- A jury has awarded a Temple University executive assistant $850,000 in an age discrimination lawsuit alleging that, among other things, she was told by her boss, a Chinese national, that "in China, they put women out to pasture at your age" (Briggs v. Temple University, No. 16-248 (E.D. Pa., July 19, 2018)).
- After she was fired, Ruth Briggs sued the Philadelphia-based school, claiming age discrimination and hostile work environment during her tenure as an executive assistant to the chair of the university’s computer and information sciences department. Briggs also said she suffered retaliation when she repeatedly complained to the university’s human resources department. The university, however, said she was fired for performance deficiencies.
- A unanimous federal jury awarded Briggs compensatory damages of $350,000 for pain and suffering, back pay loss of $250,000 and $250,000 in liquidated damages. Local media reports that Temple is reviewing its options.
The Washington Post has reported that, even with an economy so strong that there are more job openings than applicants, older workers still struggle to get hired.
Although age discrimination in employment was outlawed 50 years ago, employers still sometimes ignore the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which applies to employers with at least 20 employees and protects employees and job applicants who are 40 years of age and older. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says age discrimination is employment's "open secret" and is often viewed as more acceptable than other forms of discrimination. The agency has warned, however, that it will focus on age discrimination this year.
Compliance with the ADEA can start with recruitment efforts. Employers tend to forget about age when designing plans that attract a diverse pool of candidates. Avoiding terms such as “established” or “digital native” can help. And while many seniors are technologically savvy, recruiting that relies heavily on social media efforts can disproportionately attract younger applicants.
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Briggs v. Temple University
- HR Dive Why ageism is the most ‘acceptable’ form of workplace discrimination
- AARP Why older workers can’t catch a break