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EEOC Goes on the Offensive Against The Ohio State University for Age Discrimination

Posted by Anthony Bretz | Sep 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

On September 3, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against The Ohio State University (OSU) alleging willful violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). 

Representing the interests of older former employees of OSU, the EEOC alleges that OSU improperly terminated Alan Knox and others in March of 2018 as part of a Reduction in Force. All individuals terminated from the College of Education and Human Ecology (CEHE) were either Mr. Knox's age (53 years) or older. The suit goes on to allege that OSU replaced the older employees with "significantly younger, and significantly less-qualified" employees. 

Alan Knox was a Human Resources Generalist working in OSU's CEHE who had spectacular evaluations while with OSU. Obviously, it's never a good idea to discriminate against someone with a Human Resources background...seems OSU's administration flunked Common Sense 101.

Mr. Knox's duties were mostly assigned to a 28 year-old in a subordinate position before she was promoted within six months to the same position for slightly less pay than Knox. 

Not only were Knox and two other employees terminated for being older but Knox repeatedly applied to positions for which he was highly qualified, only to be turned down in favor of significantly younger and less qualified applicants.

These actions occurred against a backdrop of bias that permeated the administration of the CEHE. Derogatory comments about the "old man" or "old woman", even "the Grim Reaper", were used to describe Mr. Knox and his older coworkers. Additionally, the EEOC alleges that the CEHE administrators frequently spoke disparagingly about the older workers' troubles with technology and being "change averse" and having backwards ideas.

Age Discrimination

In order to prevail on a claim of Age Discrimination, the EEOC will have to show that Mr. Knox: (1) is a member of a protected class; (2) he was subjected to unwelcome actions by his employer, such as termination or refusal to hire/rehire; (3) he was qualified for the position at the time of his termination or non-hire; and (4) he was replaced by an employee who was significantly younger to suggest that his status as a member of the protected class was the motivating factor.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that petitioner could establish a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas only if he could prove that (1) he was in the age group protected by the ADEA; (2) he was discharged or demoted; (3) at the time of his discharge or demotion, he was performing his job at a level that met his employer's legitimate expectations; and (4) following his discharge or demotion, he was replaced by someone of comparable qualifications outside the protected class. more

The facts as presented by the EEOC will show that the Alan Knox is a member of a protected class, i.e. Age. Specifically, he is 40 years of age or older, being 53 at the time of his unlawful termination. He was very qualified for the position he had been working, with over 20 years of Human Resources experience and excellent employee evaluations. 

Mr. Knox was subjected to the unwelcome action of OSU in the form of termination and for refusal to hire after Mr. Knox applied to several open positions. Additionally, Mr. Knox was subjected to derogatory and disparaging comments about his age during his tenure with OSU. These unwelcome actions, termination, and refusal to rehire clearly negatively affected the compensation, terms, conditions and privileges of Mr. Knox's employment. 

Was his age a motivating factor? Mr. Knox was replaced by significantly younger and significantly less-qualified individuals. Additionally, the environment he worked in was laden with a bias against older employees. The EEOC has alleged facts which should show that due to the Mr. Knox's age, being 40 years or older, he was ultimately terminated. But not for his age he would not have been terminated. 

If you are over the age of 40 and feel you have been treated differently because of your age, or you have recently been let go as part of a reduction in force, then contact Anthony Bretz today to discuss your options. You don't have to accept being bullied. Learn how to fight for your rights.

About the Author

Anthony Bretz

Anthony S. Bretz is an experienced and dedicated trial attorney specializing in DWI, DUI, Criminal Defense and Employment Discrimination cases. A St. Louis native, he went to McCluer North High School in Florissant where he played football and wrestled. After graduating in 2000, he attended Truman State ...

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