Press Release 09-08-2020

EEOC Sues the Ohio State University for Age Discrimination

Human Resources Generalist Fired Because of Age, Federal Agency Charges

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University (OSU), a public research university, violated federal law by firing a human resources generalist in the College of Education and Human Ecology (CEHE) because of his age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The university replaced him with a younger and less-qualified employee, the EEOC said. The agency further charged that when the older former employee sought reemployment by applying for numerous human resource positions, OSU consistently selected younger, less qualified individuals.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the 53-year-old human resources generalist was terminated along with two other CEHE employees in their sixties as part of a reduction in force (RIF), despite receiving satisfactory performance reviews during his 12-year tenure with OSU. The university assigned a substantial portion of his duties to a 28-year-old employee who had been with OSU for just eight months. According to the lawsuit, the younger employee was promoted to the position of human resources generalist just six months after the RIF.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. The Ohio State University, Civil Action No.2:20-cv-04624-ALM-KAJ), after first attempting to reach a voluntary, pre-suit settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

The EEOC will seek monetary damages including back pay, liquidated damages, and, if neces­sary, front pay. The EEOC will also seek appropriate non-monetary remedies to protect the public interest and ensure that age discrimination within OSU’s CEHE does not continue.         

“It is important for public as well as private employers to understand that age discrimination is illegal,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “If a termination is age-discriminatory, dis­guising it behind a supposed reduction in force will not change that.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson said, “Older workers continue to play an important role in the workplace. The EEOC will pursue this matter as we continue to fight against age discrimination in the workplace.”

The EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.