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Press Release 09-22-2010

EEOC Sues Abbott Labs for Age Discrimination

Willful Conduct Alleged Against Pharmaceutical Giant in Firing 30-Year Sales Rep

MILWAUKEE – Abbott Laboratories, a major Illinois-based maker of drugs and medical products, unlawfully fired a 30-year employee because of his age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges in a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

According to the EEOC's suit, John Ziegler, then 54, a sales representative working for Abbott in Wisconsin, was subjected to age bias and stereotypes in regard to his performance, and was terminated and replaced by a younger employee with less education and less experience. The EEOC said Ziegler was willfully fired because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abbott Laboratories , Case No. 10-C-0833 (E.D. Wis.), has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Randa. It will be litigated by attorneys in the EEOC's Milwaukee Area Office.

"Smart employers know that—even in difficult economic times—they cannot balance their books on the backs of older workers and attempt to cover up age discrimination by saying they need employees with more 'energy' or 'excitement,' said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the Chicago District Office, which oversees the agency's Milwaukee operation. "We hope this case will make clear that workers who are doing their jobs cannot be dumped just because somebody mistakenly believes that age bias will work as a management technique. It's not going to fly."

Jean P. Kamp, EEOC associate regional attorney, added, "Today's work force has a lot of experienced people in it. In the ADEA, Congress guaranteed those older workers that so long as they are performing, they cannot be put on the street merely because of their age. That's what today's lawsuit is all about."

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at