MDHR Cases

Case File: Age Discrimination

A 43-year-old director of nursing was terminated after she raised concerns about age discrimination. The Department found probable cause.

As director of nursing services for an assisted care facility, it was Mary's job to review applications for employment. One day, she received a resume from a nurse who was approximately 62. "Don't call her," the facility's 26-year-old executive director allegedly said. "She is too old."

When Mary, who was 43, replied that the comment constituted age discrimination, the executive director rolled her eyes and changed the subject.

About two months later, Mary was fired.

Her personnel file contained no disciplinary notices, complaints, or warnings of any kind. She just "was not a good fit," she was told.

In a complaint filed with the Department of Human Rights, Mary (not her real name) charged that her age — and her stated concerns about age discrimination — were the real reasons she was terminated.

There were also other instances at this South Minnesota assisted care facility in which employees were terminated or forced out because of their age, she alleged. In her first few weeks on the job, she had been instructed to terminate another registered nurse who was in her 60s. "She can't do her job," a 26-year old supervisor allegedly said. "She should've retired by now."

In addition, younger employees were routinely promoted over better qualified and more experienced older ones. In addition to her years of experience, Mary had a four-year Bachelor's of Science degree in nursing. She was replaced by an RN in her twenties, who had only a two year associates' degree.

In its investigation, the Department of Human Rights found there was probable cause to believe the assisted care facility had engaged in discrimination by terminating the charging party because of her age. Although the care facility claimed she had been terminated for other reasons, the reasons given were pretexts, supported by questionable documentation, the Department found.

The Department found no probable cause on the charge that the termination had also been done in reprisal, finding insufficient evidence to support that additional claim.

The charging party and her attorney elected to withdraw their charge from the Department of Human Rights to pursue a legal remedy privately.

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