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Instructors receive settlement in age-discrimination case

Two university instructors have reached a settlement in an age-discrimination dispute that will give each of them more than $200,000.

The two were teachers in the English as a second language program at Ohio State University. They claimed that the director of the ESL program tried to force out older employees. In a settlement reached with the instructors, Ohio State:

  • Rehired both instructors
  • Will pay one instructor $203,000 in back pay and benefits, and the other $237,000
  • Will pay the instructors’ attorneys’ fees

An attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said of the case: “State and local government employers are still learning that there’s an age law and that it’s applied to them since 1974.”

The facts of the case

In 2009, Ohio State hired a new ESL program director. He allegedly began disparaging older staff members and promoting younger, less experienced people. In addition:

  • Younger staff members received the most desirable projects
  • Older staff members lost their offices and were reassigned to crowded, open space
  • Older staffers were forced to share an insufficient number of computers
  • Older staffers' pay was reduced
  • Some staffers were told their positions were going to be eliminated
  • The director called veteran teachers “millstones” and “dead wood”

The director also sent an email to a colleague at another university that read: This is “an extraordinary change-averse population of people, almost all of whom are over 50, contemplating retirement (or not) and it’s like herding hippos.” The program director mistakenly sent the email to one of his own staff.

In November 2017, the E.E.O.C. found “reasonable cause to believe” that the two instructors and their older colleagues were discriminated against because of age. The university settled the case in May 2018.

Settlement includes training

In addition to the payments to the two teachers, Ohio State has agreed to train human resources staff to recognize, investigate and prevent age discrimination. An AARP spokesperson said, “That’s one of the major victories in this case.”

Do you have questions?

Have you been the victim of age discrimination? Contact an attorney who has experience in this area of employment law.

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