A 53-year-old woman says Starbucks discriminated against her based on age. Starbucks wanted the lawsuit thrown out, but a federal court has ruled there’s enough evidence to allow it to go forward.
Deborah Boyajian applied to be a barista at three different Starbucks in Maine.
At one shop, the manager told Boyajian she wouldn’t be hired because of her limited availability.
However, the manager had concluded that she would not hire Boyajian because of her conduct during her interview and Starbucks’ employees’ account of the applicant’s post-interview behavior when visiting the coffee shop to check on her application.
Boyajian filed a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The court noted that the applicant’s behavior during and after her interview would be a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring her.
However, there were a couple of other problems.
History of hiring those under 30
In her lawsuit, Boyajian introduced several pieces of evidence to try to show Starbucks engaged in age discrimination. The court decided some had merit.
One claim is that the Starbucks manager lied to Boyajian about why she wasn’t hired. The court said inconsistent explanations for failing to hire an applicant may constitute evidence of pretext.
As part of the court case, Starbucks had to turn over recent records regarding hiring.
During the current manager’s tenure at one branch where Boyajian applied, 19 baristas were hired, none of whom were older than 30 at the time of hiring.
The court said there may be legitimate reasons why no applicants over 30 were hired, but it would be up to Starbucks to present those reasons at trial.
This case provides two lessons HR needs to stress with hiring managers:
- Keep accurate records on why some applicants are hired and others are rejected. Even the appearance of age discrimination can cause a company trouble.
- Managers can get a company in trouble if they lie to applicants about why there weren’t hired.
The court’s opinion is available online here.
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