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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Worker Claims Fired Because Of Age After Being Told She Was “Not The Same As She Used To Be”

Ageism discrimination sign concept

Having litigated age discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years, our Citrus County employment discrimination lawyers know that older workers continue to endure systemic discrimination based on age stereotypes regarding their productivity, health, or competence. Older employees, our Inverness, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have learned, are routinely subjected to comments reflecting age stereotypes, such as telling older workers they cannot produce like they did in the past, that they do not have the same motivation or energy, and that they are no longer innovative or creative. As the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604 (1993) explained, “it is the very essence of age discrimination for an older employee to be fired because the employer believes that productivity and competence decline with age.” In this article, our Citrus County employment discrimination lawyers explain how the decision in Harris v. Therapy Management, Inc., Case No. 20-cv-10512 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 10, 2021) demonstrates that remarks reflecting stereotypes about the productivity, health, or competence of older workers are evidence of a discriminatory age-based employment decision.

Age Discrimination Lawsuit

In that case, a woman named Harris brought an age discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Therapy Management, Inc. (TMI), pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of age. Harris claims that she was fired because of her age in violation of the ADEA.

Harris was employed by TMI as an occupational therapy assistant and worked at a nursing home owned by TMI. Harris was fired on November 14, 2018, at the age of seventy-one. On that date, Harris was caring for a comatose patient alongside another TMI occupational therapy assistant, Teffault, and an unidentified nurse not employed by TMI. The patient’s treatment area was surrounded by a curtain and in a room with a door TMI’s patient privacy policy requires that, at any given time, either the curtain or door must be closed in order to protect a patient from being visible or exposed. The nurse exited the room, and, unbeknownst to Harris and Teffault, left the door open on her way out. At some point, Harris opened the curtain to exit the room, not knowing that the door was also open, which left the patient exposed. A state inspector, who was on the site conducting a routine inspection of the nursing home, happened to walk by at that moment and witnessed the violation.

After witnessing the violation, the state inspector spoke with Harris. Harris then immediately walked to the office of her supervisor, Gargadharan, to notify him of what happened. No more than one hour later, Gargadharan called Harris back to his office and informed her that she was terminated. Harris was provided with no explanation for her termination. Teffault, who is forty-eight years younger than Harris, was not terminated after the incident.

A few days before her termination, according to Harris, Gargadharan remarked that Harris was “not the same as she used to be,” which Harris understood to be a negative comment about her age. Harris further alleges that TMI has engaged in a pattern of phasing out older employees for younger hires and a company-wide practice of targeting employees for termination because of their age and replacing them with much younger hires.

Evidence Of Discriminatory Termination

TMI filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Harris’ age discrimination claim. In support of its motion for dismissal, TMI argued the evidence established that Harris was fired because she violated the company’s privacy policy by leaving both the curtain and door open while cleaning a comatose patient and not because of her age. The trial court denied TMI’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Harris was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on the issue of whether she was fired because of her age in violation of the ADEA.

In denying TMI’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on Gargadharan’s alleged remark reflecting prohibited age stereotypes about the productivity of older workers. The trial court observed that Harris claims that “a few days before her termination, her supervisor Gargadharan told her “she wasn’t what she used to be.” The trial court reasoned that a “jury could find that such a comment, made by the person with hire/fire power just before an employee’s termination, is evidence the proffered reason was pretextual and the firing was actually motivated by discriminatory animus.” In other words, the trial court reasoned, the remark about prohibited age stereotypes was evidence that Harris’ age was the real reason she was fired and not because she violated TMI’s privacy policy.

Free Consultation For Discrimination Victims

One of the most critical decisions employment discrimination victims must make is which employment law attorneys to consult with regarding their rights and remedies under federal employment discrimination law. As part of our dedication to helping employment discrimination victims, an experienced employment law attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment discrimination attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Citrus County, FL Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment discrimination attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have been subjected to age discrimination in the workplace or have questions about your rights as an older employee, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment discrimination lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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