February 28, 2023
HR Gives the Whistle A Toot Then Gets the Boot
HR professionals sometimes have to walk a fine line. Their duties include advocating for employees’ rights, which may concurrently safeguard the employer. But that advocacy is not always well received by the company’s leaders.
Here is one recent example. Under the direction of its new president and chief executive officer, the employer made plans to replace older employees with a new, younger workforce. The HRD witnessed the CEO making dozens of discriminatory, age-related comments about current and potential employees. The HRD then witnessed qualified older employees getting turned down in favor of less-qualified younger employees, forcing older upper-management employees out of the company under the guise of “job eliminations.” When the HRD questioned these actions and attempted to educate executives about anti-discrimination laws, she was fired and replaced by two significantly younger individuals.
How does the story end? The company agreed to pay the former HRD $460,000 in a settlement, plus (1) train all of its employees and managers on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); (2) distribute its ADEA policies to all employees; (3) post a notice about federal anti-discrimination laws and employee rights in the workplace; and (4) allow the EEOC to monitor how it handles future ADEA discrimination complaints.
- Breathe! Business owners, executives, and leaders, when you hear bad news from HR, be grateful! You have hired an HR pro who knows the laws, what are (not) legally sound business practices, and they are trying to keep you safe!
- I believe this story could have been worse. I am not sure why and I am surprised the EEOC did not mention unlawful retaliation! The story reads that the HRD was fired after she reported to the employer what she perceived to be unlawful discrimination. That charge could have made this settlement even greater!