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Lilly to pay $2.4M to settle EEOC suit alleging bias against older applicants

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Dive Brief:

  • Pharmaceutical giant Lilly USA will pay $2.4 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it failed to hire older applicants for sales positions because of their age, according to a June 26 consent decree in EEOC v. Lilly USA, LLC.
  • In 2017, Lilly’s senior vice president of HR and diversity allegedly announced that its workforce consisted primarily of older workers and Lilly’s new goal was to have 40% of new hires be “early career” candidates to add more millennials, the EEOC’s complaint claimed. Thereafter, Lilly allegedly changed its hiring preferences and practices to intentionally under-hire older applicants for sales representative positions, the EEOC said. It sued Lilly for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against applicants age 40 and older.
  • Lilly denied the allegations and did not admit liability, court documents said. Per the consent decree, the $2.4 million will be put in an interest-bearing fund for candidates who were 40 or older when they were denied jobs as primary care sales representatives in Lilly’s diabetes unit between 2017 and 2021. During the 30-month decree, Lilly must also provide at least one hour of EEO training annually to managers and HR personnel involved in hiring for these positions. In addition, all contracts with third-party recruiting, screening and hiring firms must state that Lilly does not discriminate against job candidates because of age.

Dive Insight:

Businesses striving to meet their post-pandemic hiring goals should keep in mind that practices favoring younger candidates over older candidates because of their age generally violate the ADEA and may subject them to lawsuits.

For example, in a June 6 lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that the vice president of electrical contractor Hatzel & Buehler’s New Jersey branch asked a recruiting company to seek out younger project managers and estimator candidates for jobs at the branch, the EEOC said in a press release announcing the suit.

The vice president allegedly told the recruiter that Hatzel & Buehler would not consider candidates with more than 25 years of experience and that a 65-year-old applicant with more than 32 years of experience was “too old to be hired for the position,” Constructive Dive reported.

“The EEOC is committed to enforcing the ADEA and ensuring that recruitment and hiring decisions involving older workers are based on the candidates’ qualifications, not age,” Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson stated in the release.

In May, Target resolved allegations by the Communication Workers of America union and two union members that it posted job ads on a social media platform directed toward younger workers within certain age ranges, according to an AARP press release.

The CWA and the two members filed charges with the EEOC, claiming Target’s actions violated the ADEA and similar state laws. Under the settlement, Target will recruit on websites focused on older workers, use images of older workers in job ads and participate in job fairs that older workers commonly attend, AARP said.

The ADEA also prohibits age discrimination in promotions and job assignments, according to the EEOC, and managers may want to be careful not to let age bias influence these decisions.

For instance, in February, a 53-year-old executive sales representative sued Lilly for allegedly rejecting her for a district sales manager job in favor of a less-qualified and much less experienced 27-year-old. The suit, filed as a class action under Massachusetts law, is pending.

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