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EEOC inks $90K age discrimination settlement for 49-year-old rejected for sales job

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Dive Brief:

  • A Wisconsin molecular diagnostics company has agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit alleging that it discriminated against a 49-year-old job applicant on the basis of age, EEOC announced Thursday.
  • EEOC filed the suit in late March, alleging that Exact Sciences turned down the applicant for a medical sales representative opening because the company sought “more junior” job applicants. The agency further alleged that a recruiting consultant for Exact Sciences wrote in notes that the applicant was overqualified. The company later hired a 41-year-old candidate with fewer years of experience than the plaintiff.
  • The settlement includes a consent decree under which Exact Sciences will implement additional age discrimination training for hiring managers and ensure that third-party recruiters are aware of its policies preventing age discrimination in hiring. In an email to HR Dive, Exact Sciences said it “denies the allegation of any violation, as the applicant was not selected for legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons.”

Dive Insight:

Despite the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, commentators have long described age discrimination as one of the more persistent forms of workplace bias. But 2023 has seen a number of headlines made with respect to addressing age discrimination.

In March, EEOC announced a $460,000 settlement with manufacturer Fischer Connectors over allegations that the company fired an HR director and replaced her with two younger workers after she questioned plans to replace older workers. A similar suit surfaced in September, when two former HR workers at IBM, both of whom were over age 60 at the time of their termination, alleged that the company fired them because of their age.

Another age discrimination-related settlement occurred in May, when Target and the Communications Workers of America union agreed to settle claims that it posted job advertisements that were directed only at younger workers using a social media platform.

Harassment and discrimination on the basis of a worker’s age are prohibited by the ADEA, and an EEOC guidance document cautions that this extends to any aspect of employment, including job assignments, promotions, training and benefits, among others.

“The ADEA applies to employers who use third-party recruiters to screen job applicants,” Amy Burkholder, director of EEOC’s Denver office, said in an agency press release. “Recruiters are not free to discriminate based on age, or to refuse hire to applicants over 40 who may be making mid-career job transitions, and often bring valuable prior work experience.”

Given that older workers continue to report experiencing age discrimination, Congressional lawmakers have tried several times to strengthen the ADEA. On Dec. 4, a group of House representatives made the most recent push to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would reinstate the availability of the “mixed-motive” test that allows complainants to establish that age was a motivating factor for an unlawful employment practice, even if it was not the only such factor.

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