Long-Time Property Manager for Downtown Tulsa Skyscrapers Booted for ‘Younger, Prettier’ Replacements, Federal Agency Charges
TULSA, Okla. – Kanbar Property Management LLC (KPM), which manages several downtown Tulsa commercial office buildings, violated federal law by terminating one of its long-time and well-qualified property managers because of her age, 53, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, KPM informed Toni Strength that “due to a reorganization of services, it has become necessary to reduce the administrative management staff” and that her property manager position had been “eliminated effective October 29, 2010.” Two days later, after its supposed restructuring, KPM replaced Toni Strength with two new property managers, ages 23 and 39, because its chief operating officer wanted “younger and prettier” property managers to meet and entertain potential tenants after business hours.
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which makes it unlawful to discharge any employee over the age of 40 because of age. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Kanbar Property Management LLC, Civil Case No.: 12-CV- ________) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, liquidated damages and reinstatement or front pay for Strength as well as injunctive relief, including a court order prohibiting KPM from any further discrimination against employees on the basis of their age.
“KPM used the deception of a purported reorganization to mask its discriminatory plan to fire a qualified long-term older employee and replace her with ‘younger and prettier’ property managers,” said EEOC trial attorney Jeff Lee. “This litigation will serve notice to employers and KPM that the EEOC will not allow Oklahoma employees to be discarded once they reach a perceived expiration date in their 50s.”
Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which oversees Oklahoma, added, “Federal law has long prohibited employers from discriminating against employees who are over 40 years of age. The level of deceit practiced by KPM, as reflected in the plan to replace Ms. Strength with two younger employees, clearly demonstrates Kanbar Property Management’s willful intent to circumvent discrimination law – and it won’t work.”
According to company information, Kanbar Property Management LLC manages more than two million square feet of office space in downtown Tulsa. In fact, KPM parent company Kanbar Properties Inc. holds more than 30 percent of downtown Tulsa in its commercial portfolio, including First Place Tower, the Petroleum Club Building and the Bank of America Tower.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.