145,000 reasons not to tell an employee they have “old-timers disease.”


Also, it is a bad idea to give that same employee a “retire-or-be-fired” ultimatum shortly after they return from bypass heart surgery.

Am I making this stuff up?

When have you known me to do that?

No, these allegations come from a recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  press release announcing a $145K settlement of age and disability discrimination claims against a Texas employer. Here’s more from the press release about how this company really stepped in it (allegedly):

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an employee who had been employed with [the employer] for nearly 18 years underwent bypass heart surgery in early 2021, requiring a brief medical leave of absence. In the days leading up to her return from leave, the owner of the company told the employee she needed to retire, or she would be fired, because he did not feel she could do her job any longer. He also made comments about her gray hair and “old-timers disease” and told her in a disparaging tone that she was old enough to be his mother.

Such alleged conduct violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination based on age. 

So, the EEOC sued the pants off the employer – not literally, that would only add to the problem – and the case promptly settled. In addition to forking over $145,000 to settle the lawsuit, the employer must create and distribute new protocols for requesting reasonable accommodations and reporting discrimination. It will also train all employees annually regarding the specific new protocols — I know a guy who can help — and about employment discrimination laws that govern the workplace.

And that’s not all. The owner must take separate training from a third party.

(Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that room.)

When I read this settlement, I thought of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment, an 18-month study of the issues associated with harassment in the workplace. Two of the takeaways from that study were that leadership and accountability are critical, specifically, “workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company.” Companies must have systems to hold everyone accountable for this expectation at all levels and across all positions.

The Task Force emphasized that “accountability systems must ensure that those who engage in harassment are held responsible in a meaningful, appropriate, and proportional manner and that those whose job it is to prevent or respond to harassment should be rewarded for doing that job well (or penalized for failing to do so).”

I know one employer that would benefit from accountability systems.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
Contact Information