HONOLULU – Kmart Corporation will pay $120,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age harassment, constructive discharge and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Kmart was charged with discriminating against a 70-year-old pharmacist at a Honolulu store.
According to the EEOC’s suit, over the course of four years, a pharmacy manager openly professed on several occasions that the pharmacist was “too old,” “should just retire,” and was “greedy” for continuing to work at age 70. The manager continued to further humiliate her in writing by stating, “The pharmacy is no longer your forte” and “You need to retire from pharmacy work now,” in a communication book open to the entire department.
The manager also purposely scheduled her to work on Sundays – knowing that she attended church those days – to encourage her to quit, according to the EEOC. The agency further contended that the victim complained to a district manager, general manager and human resources manager regarding the age-based harassment, to no avail.
Kmart threatened legal action against the pharmacist using a pretext on an unrelated matter to retaliate against her for her discrimination complaint. The pharmacist finally had to quit to escape the mistreatment.
In June 2009, the EEOC filed its lawsuit claiming that Kmart failed to take remedial action, which forced the pharmacist to resign. The EEOC argued that the harassment and Kmart’s failure to adequately address it were in direct violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
“Instead of addressing this pharmacist’s legitimate complaints of age discrimination, Kmart made a bad situation worse by threatening her for complaining,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Such retaliation only compounds an employer’s culpability.”
In cooperation with the EEOC, Kmart entered into a three-year consent decree which also stipulated that Kmart post a notice on the matter; hire an EEO trainer; review and revise its existing anti-discrimination policy; provide annual ADEA training to all staff; and ensure that performance evaluations reflect discriminatory misconduct by management staff.