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A 78-Year-Old Receptionist Fired a Month After She Was Recognized as a Top Employee Wins $78,000 in Settlement The worker had been a receptionist since 2007 and was fired in February 2022.

By Grace Dean

Key Takeaways

  • A retirement community in Georgia fired a 78-year-old receptionist because of her age, the EEOC said.
  • Just a month beforehand, the company had recognized her as one of its employees of the year.
  • As life expectancy rises, more people are working into older age.
Skynesher | Getty Images via Business Insider
The woman worked at a retirement community in Columbus, Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

A retirement community in Columbus, Georgia, fired a 78-year-old receptionist because of her age shortly after she was taken to hospital with high blood pressure, a federal agency says.

Covenant Woods Retirement Community and its owner, BrightSpace Senior Living, agreed in late April to pay $78,000 to settle an age and disability discrimination lawsuit filed in February 2024 by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The worker, who had been a receptionist since 2007, was fired in February 2022, the EEOC said in the lawsuit.

She was previously given good feedback in her annual reviews, including being recognized in January 2022 as one of Covenant Woods' Employees of the Year for 2021, it wrote.

However, some members of the retirement community's management team had suggested she retire. When the receptionist took medical leave in 2017, aged 74, the office manager asked her multiple times why she didn't retire, per the lawsuit.

On February 10, 2022, the receptionist experienced an incident of high blood pressure while at work and was taken to the hospital. She was released two days later, the EEOC said, and doctors later told her it was the result of dehydration.

When she returned to work later that month, she met with the office manager and general manager, who asked her how long she planned to continue working and whether she needed to do so, per the EEOC.

They also suggested that she should travel and visit relatives. The receptionist, who was 78 at the time, said that she planned to keep working for another two or three years.

But the general manager responded that the company had lost confidence in her ability to perform her duties, citing the blood pressure incident earlier that month as an example, the EEOC said.

The general manager told the receptionist she could either work one day a week, be transferred to an unspecified role in another department, or volunteer without pay, per the lawsuit. The receptionist turned down these options.

She then received a letter from the general manager saying that her employment had ended in a "business decision" because the company had lost confidence in her ability to carry out her tasks, the EEOC said. This was later confirmed in a letter from BrightSpace's HR director.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC said that the employee was fired "because of her age and her disability or perceived disability" in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The companies have agreed to pay $50,000 in compensatory damages and $28,000 in wages to settle the charges.

"We at Covenant Woods and BrightSpace Senior Living resolved this case due to the cost of litigating it," BrightSpace CFO Brian Hendricks told CBS News in a statement. "We do not admit wrongdoing or discriminatory conduct as part of this resolution."

As life expectancy rises, the U.S. workforce is getting older.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 11 million people employed in 2023 were aged 65 or older, making up 6.8% of workers aged 16 or older. This is up from 3.3% of workers 20 years before.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age discrimination against people aged 40 or older, including in hiring and termination decisions.

Earlier this year, a manufacturing and distribution company in Louisiana agreed to pay $105,000 to a former employee for firing her when she refused to retire at 65 in another EEOC settlement.

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