Veteran Property Manager for Kanbar's Tulsa Skyscrapers Replaced With 'Younger and Prettier' Property Managers, Federal Agency Charged
TULSA, Okla. - Kanbar Property Management LLC (KPM), the property management company for several downtown commercial office buildings in Tulsa, will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that KPM violated federal law by firing Toni Strength because of her age, 53, and favoring younger people to replace her.
According to the EEOC's suit, Toni Strength was one of KPM's long-time veteran property managers who had been with KPM and its predecessor property management companies since 1992. KPM notified Strength, who was 53 at the time, that she was being terminated on Oct. 29, 2010, because her position was being eliminated. The EEOC charged that Strength was in fact deliberately replaced with younger women, including placing a 23-year-old clerical employee in the property manager position, and the younger replacements were then assigned seven of the ten buildings that Strength had managed. The EEOC said these actions were taken because KPM's former CEO, Suhki Ghuman, wanted "younger and prettier" property managers to meet with potential tenants and entertain potential tenants after regular work hours, and characterized Strength as "too old and ugly."
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits basing employment decisions on a person's age if he or she is over 40. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, (EEOC v. Kanbar Property Management LLC, Civil Case No.: 12-CV- 422-JED-TLW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The consent decree settling the suit provides that KPM will pay $140,000 to Strength, update its anti-discrimination policies to recognize the importance of older employees in the workforce and furnish companywide ADEA training for all of its management personnel with hiring and firing authority, as part of the settlement.
"This former CEO's ageist and sexist marketing strategy - the use of young attractive women to market commercial lease space in downtown Tulsa - is obnoxious and insulting enough, but firing older employees to make room for younger ones is clearly unlawful," said Jeff Lee, senior trial attorney for the EEOC and lead counsel on the case. "Ms. Strength received nothing but excellent performance ratings over the course of her long career in the commercial property industry and handled most of KPM's office buildings. Experienced and successful employees such as Ms. Strength deserve loyalty and respect for their years of service, not termination because they are perceived to be too old."
Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office, added, "The ADEA prohibits age discrimination, even if other factors may have contributed to the decision. Our business community surely has advanced further in marketing concepts than merely staffing property management offices with young attractive females to meet with potential leasing clients. KPM's plan of action, as reflected by its replacement of Ms. Strength with two younger women whom it believed were more attractive, clearly demonstrated the company's desire to circumvent the ADEA."
According to its website, KPM manages more than two million square feet of office space in downtown Tulsa, 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.