When military and food industry veteran Lula Wright-Hill, then 54, went to an interview with Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen she noticed a lot of young people working there. Lula would soon find out why.
Though she was more than qualified for the position the store owner asked her a question she had not bargained for: "How old are you?" When Lula revealed her age, the owner responded, "You're too old. . ." Within the week, Lula went to the EEOC.
Q. How Has This Experience Affected You?
I was shocked. It hurt my feelings. It made me depressed, but my faith has grown tremendously. My body feels old sometimes, but my mind isn't. It was a horrible insult. Everyone has the right to be respected. I knew I needed to fight back with pen and paper.
Q. What Do You Want People to Take Away From Your Experience?
Never give up. Have patience. Do the best interview you can. If you don't get that job, you will get another one.
Q. What Do You Want People to Know About Older Workers?
We have experience. We've been here, we've done it. We are the teachers.
Q. How Was Your Experience with the EEOC?
They were very pleasant and helped coach me. They handled things as quickly as possible and got back to me quickly. I did not expect it to be as quick as it was.
From the EEOC Attorney's Perspective
Q. Why Was This Case So Important to Older Workers?
It is unusual for an employer to be honest about why an applicant is not hired. Here, the employer, advertently or not, exposed its true motivation by telling the applicant she was too old to work at Popeyes. This case confirmed what older workers feel: that even in low wage jobs, an applicant's age determines their viability.