Business Management Daily (05/21/12)
Seemingly innocent age-related comments can come back to haunt a company, especially if the comments come from someone who has a direct say in hiring and firing decisions. In one recent case, Harry Seretti worked for a Ford dealership during the worst part of the economic downturn. Seretti was 58 years old when he was informed that his services were no longer needed. The dealership immediately hired Seretti’s replacement, a 45-year-old former employee.
Seretti filed a suit alleging age discrimination, claiming that when he asked his supervisor why he was being let go, the supervisor said that Seretti’s age had “caught up with” him. Seretti also pointed to other recent comments, including one in which the supervisor said the automobile business had a way of aging someone “real quick.” The dealership argued that poor performance was the real reason it let Seretti go, but offered no evidence to back that up. That was enough for the court to order a trial, Seretti v. Morrow Ford Lincoln Mercury. The case serves as a reminder for employers to always make sure documentation can prove a termination was based on performance.