Human Resources News & Insights

Age bias lawsuit: Little white lies about worker’s departure come back to haunt employer

Sometimes employers feel the need to fib a little about why an employee is leaving the company – to avoid damaging morale.

While the intentions may be good, a new lawsuit serves as a great example of why not to do that. 

Hired at 63, fired at 64

When Wesley Enhanced Living, a retirement community, fired CFO DeWayne McMullin, he filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Wesley.

McMullin, who was 64, was replaced by a 52-year-old.

Wesley said McMullin was fired because he continually made errors in financial reports and cash sheets.

The employer also believed it had strong grounds to get the lawsuit thrown out – namely McMullin was 63 when he was hired (he’d only been on the job a year).

Surely, the fact that they hired him at 63 proves Wesley wasn’t guilty of age bias, right?

Not so fast. The court ruled a jury should hear McMullin’s case because:

  • Wesley told its employees McMullin resigned – not that he was fired, and
  • the CEO said two staffers complained to him about McMullin’s performance, but they testified that while they had concerns, they never discussed them with the CEO.

So the court said, “Based on the record … a jury could find Wesley’s explanation for terminating McMullin incredible. Such a finding may give rise to an inference of discrimination.”

Now Wesley is facing an expensive legal battle or settlement.

Cite: McMullin v. Evangelical Services for the Aging, d.b.a. Wesley Enhanced Living, U.S. Dist. Crt., E.D. PA, No. 16-6660, 8/2/17.

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