Lessons from Diaz v. Jiten Hotel Management, Inc.; an Age Discrimination Case
Do your employees know that they should not tell other employees that they are “getting old”?
In a recent Massachusetts case, a supervisor called other employees things like an “old pumpkin”, an “old shoe”, or an “old hankie”?
These are some of the things the plaintiff, Ms. Carmen Llerena Diaz, alleged her direct manager said to her while she was employed as the head housekeeper at a Holiday Inn Express in an age-discrimination suit she filed with the U.S. District Court, Diaz v. Jiten Hotel Management, Inc., (Civil Action No. 08-CV-10143).
She also alleged that, when she was hired, her direct manager told her “You’re going to convert this hotel into a nursing home.” Another manager allegedly told her that she was too old for the job and that “old people should remain home.”
It is important that your employees know that ageist, and other discriminatory comments, are unacceptable in the workplace. Your managers also need to know that they cannot make any employment decisions based on an individual’s advanced age. After all, you want the best people for the job; not appropriately aged people for the job.
Despite the plaintiff’s allegations of ageist comments from her direct supervisor, the defendant in Diaz v. Jiten Hotel Management, Inc., brought a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the case.
The motion was brought principally on two grounds: (1) the plaintiff’s claims were directed at her direct manager, not the Jiten Hotel Management, Inc.; and (2) the manager’s discriminatory statements were merely “stray remarks”, not indicative of a discriminatory animus or the employment environment as a whole.
The court was unconvinced. Judge Gertner wrote:
“I fundamentally disagree…[D]iscrimination…is about concepts like bias and motivation… discrimination must be inferred not only from the statements of the relevant actors, but also from the context in which they were made, including the relationships between the various actors, the speaker and those around him.”