In 2011, Wal-Mart was the talk of the nation when a gender discrimination case against the huge discount store chain went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs in the case lost for procedural reasons, not for anything having to do with their discrimination claims. The accusations of gender discrimination have never been disproved, and several of the plaintiffs in the original case have filed new lawsuits.
Fast forward to March 2014, and Wal-Mart's in the news for discrimination yet again - this time for age discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against Wal-Mart Stores of Texas for the actions of a supervisor in a Wal-Mart store in Keller, Texas.
The EEOC charges that the supervisor ridiculed and taunted David Moorman, a manager in the store, calling him "old man" (he was 52 at the time) and the "old food guy" and saying that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." When Moorman reported the abuse to the human resources department, the EEOC says, nothing happened; in fact, the harassment increased, and the store fired Moorman. The EEOC contends that he was fired because of his age.
Although the EEOC tried to reach a settlement with Wal-Mart through its conciliation process, it was unable to do so. The EEOC hopes, through the lawsuit, to force Wal-Mart to formulate policies to prevent and correct age discrimination. It also seeks damages for Moorman, including lost wages and damages provided for by contract.
"Employers should be diligent about preventing and correcting conduct that can amount to bullying at the workplace ," says Joel Clark, a senior trial attorney with the EEOC. "They have an obligation to stop ageist harassment after it is reported. The company's failure to take remedial action to stop the harassment ... and the ultimate termination of the discrimination victim demonstrate a disregard for equal opportunity laws. The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people like Mr. Moorman."
The takeaway? If you're at least 40 and experience age discrimination and harassment at work, you may have a remedy under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the EEOC can help.
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