Interesting age-discrimination case against the CVS Caremark pharmacy chain came to an end recently in Alabama and, like the rash of other cases preceding it, demonstrated the cavalier and callous manner in which older Americans regularly are cast aside by their employers.
In this particular case, a two-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hopkins in Anniston, Ala., the jury found that a CVS pharmacy in that town willfully violated the Age Discrimination Employment Act when it fired pharmacist Roger Harris in August 2009 – at the time of his 65th birthday.
Harris had filed the suit against Rhode Island-based CVS Caremark in February 2011, alleging that his supervisor and co-workers created a workplace filled with derogatory remarks regarding his age. In the suit, Harris said that his supervisor and district manager failed to correct the behavior, and that he later received numerous inaccurate and unfounded reprimands regarding his job performance.
The pharmacist began his effort to fight back when he filed a charge against his employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Dec. 1, 2009. However, the case was dismissed in Nov. 23, 2010. He then filed his suit, which an individual is entitled to do 90 days after receiving notice that the EEOC has dismissed his charge.
In the Alabama case, Harris was awarded $400,000 in back pay. Given that the jury concluded CVS’ conduct was willful, the law provides damages in the same amount — $400,000 – as the back pay. The judge, however, has not yet ruled on that element of the jury’s decision.
The timing of Harris’ termination from CVS was particularly interesting, as the termination document was dated August 13, 2009, when the pharmacist was off celebrating his 65th birthday at the beach. When he got back to work, and returned to work on August 17, 2009, he was terminated – and replaced by a 27-year-old who was paid far less than Harris.
Not surprisingly, the company disagreed with the jury decision and is considering an appeal. “CVS Caremark has a firm non-discrimination policy, and we do not tolerate discrimination in our workplace on the basis of age or any other legally-protected trait,” a spokesperson said.
Harris didn’t “tolerate discrimination” either. And he, like a growing number of Americans, said “no, you can’t do that to me.”
And the number will continue to grow as long as practices such as these continue.