It’s certainly no secret that age bias claims are on the rise. So here’s a reminder to managers: Calling an older employee “pops” and “old man” — and harassing him to the point where he quits his job — might not work out that well in the long run.
That bit of guidance comes out of a recent case out of Louisiana involving a used-car salesman named Milan Dediol.
Dediol, who was 65 during his three-month tenure at Best Chevrolet, was also a born-again Christian.
When Dediol asked permission to take off work for a July 4 event at his church, his direct supervisor, Donald Clay, allegedly told him, “You old mother******, you are not going over there tomorrow” and “if you go over there, I’ll fire your f****** ass.”
And things apparently went downhill from there. Dediol claimed that Clay never referred to him by his name again — only by names like “old mother******,” “old man,” and “pops.”
Allegedly, Clay also started to make comments related to Dediol’s religious beliefs, including “Go to your f****** God and see if he can save your job.”
In an attempt to escape the continuous harassment, Dediol asked to transfer to another department within the dealership. This apparently enraged Clay, who allegedly threatened to “beat the f*** out of” Dediol.
Finally, Dediol quit. He filed suit against the employer, charging he’d been the victim of age and religious discrimination.
Lower court decision tossed
A federal district court dismissed the case, saying Dediol wasn’t able to prove the hostile remarks were related to any employment action, and that the incidents didn’t add up to a “hostile work environment.”
The appeals court saw things differently. “Clay’s repeated profance references to Dediol, and the strident age-related comments … used by Clay on almost a daily basis in the work setting” could certainly be construed as creating a hostile environment, the judge wrote.
Dediol’s claim of religious bias was also upheld by the appeals court, which remanded the case back to the district court for trial.
So the employer now faces two unhappy options. Pay an expensive settlement or take its chances in court — in a long, expensive legal battle.
The case is Dediol v. Best Chevrolet. To read the full decision, go here.