EEOC sues retirement community for firing a 78-year-old receptionist after repeatedly asking her to retire

Dive Brief:

  • A Georgia retirement community’s firing of a 78-year-old receptionist who had recently been briefly hospitalized is age and disability discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged. The general manager said it was a “business decision” based on a loss of confidence in the worker’s ability to do her job, according to court documents filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The retirement community could not immediately be reached for comment. 
  • Covenant Woods Senior Living LLC and BrightSpace Senior Living allegedly fired the receptionist, who had worked for the company for 14 years without substantial performance concerns, after asking her “how long she planned to continue to work, whether she needed to work, and whether she would like to spend her time traveling and seeing family instead of working,” according to a news release issued by EEOC. Previously, supervisors had repeatedly asked her why she wouldn’t retire, according to court documents.
  • “The right to decide a retirement age lies with an employee, not their employer. Moreover, an employer may not use an actual or perceived disability as license to deem an employee unqualified for their position. The EEOC is committed to enforcing the [Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)] and the [Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)] to protect the rights of aggrieved employees,” Darrell Graham, district director of EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in a statement.

Dive Insight:

The EEOC defines age discrimination as treating an employee unfavorably because of their age. Under the ADEA, employers cannot discriminate in hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training or benefits. 

Likewise, the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers with disabilities on any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job duties and training. 

“The ADEA prohibits employers from firing someone who is at least 40 years old because of their age,” Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in a statement. “Additionally, the ADA prohibits employers from terminating an employee because of an actual or perceived disability. Covenant Woods violated both statutes when it terminated a high-performing and long-tenured employee on the unfounded assumption that her age and medical condition would prevent her from doing her job.”