Office Coordinator Fired After Owner Referred to Her as a ‘Bag of Bones,’ Federal Agency Charges
HONOLULU — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Hawaii Healthcare Professionals, Inc., also known as Hawaii Professional HomeCare Services, Inc., a Honolulu-based company which provides home health care services throughout the islands of Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC contends that the company’s owner ordered the termination of a then-54-year-old office coordinator from its Maui facility in February 2008. Despite reports that the office coordinator was a thorough and efficient worker, the EEOC charged that the owner made disparaging remarks about her indicating that she “looked old,” “like a bag of bones,” and that she “sounds old on the telephone.” The owner then told the manager of the Maui facility that the office coordinator was not the type of person she wanted representing her company, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Hawaii Healthcare Professionals, Inc. a/k/a Hawaii Professional HomeCare Services, Inc., Case No. CV-10-00549 BMK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay and liquidated damages for the victim as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination at the company.
“Unfortunately, this is a scenario that we see all too often where the employee is judged based on preconceived notions of age rather than actual performance,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which oversees the agency’s litigation in Hawaii. “The EEOC absolutely can and will hold employers accountable for this type of blatant age bias.”
Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “The law requires that employees be treated equally, regardless of age. Employers must be mindful to check their own personal biases and make employment decisions based on job-related criteria.”
According to its website, Hawaii Healthcare Professionals provides a range of patient care services, including at-home elderly medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, personal care assistance, and medication management.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.