About the Firm

Attorney Brian H. Alligood provides top quality, aggressive legal representation to individuals and businesses throughout North Carolina. Mr. Alligood regularly represents parties in disputes arising from all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. Employment issues frequently litigated include claims of discriminatory hiring and employment practices, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful discharge, wage and hour violations, breach of contract and no-compete covenants, and employee benefits litigation. In addition to confronting claims of traditional employment discrimination, Mr. Alligood represents parties with respect to statutory rights and obligations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

Mr. Alligood regularly appears in all North Carolina state and federal courts and administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the North Carolina Department of Labor, and the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Friday, May 9, 2014

EEOC Files Age Discrimination Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart Stores of Texas

As we have previously noted on this blog, age discrimination claims continue to be asserted in large numbers, both in North Carolina and across the nation.  Employment discrimination on the basis of age is expressly prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).  Furthermore, in North Carolina, age discrimination is prohibited by the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act. 

Recently, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a civil lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores of Texas, LLC due to alleged age discrimination.  In the lawsuit, the EEOC contends that David Moorman, a 54 year old manager of a Wal-Mart store located in Keller, Texas, was the victim of unlawful age discrimination in multiple respects.  The lawsuit is instructive in demonstrating the various types of discriminatory conduct and actions that can constitute actionable discrimination.

In the complaint that initiated the lawsuit, the EEOC contends that Mr. Moorman was subjected to frequent age-based taunts from his direct supervisor, including repeated references to “old man.”  According to the EEOC’s press release on the case, the supervisor also referred to Mr. Moorman as “old food guy,” and derided him with comments such as, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  It is further alleged that Wal-Mart took no corrective action, even after Mr. Moorman reported the conduct, that the misconduct increased, and that the store ultimately fired Mr. Moorman because of his age.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart unlawfully refused a request for accommodation of a diabetes related disability.  According to the lawsuit, Mr. Moorman requested reassignment to a store co-manager or assistant manager position after being diagnosed with the condition.  It is alleged that Wal-Mart refused to consider the request and simply rejected it without discussion.

On the basis of the above, the EEOC sued Wal-Mart for violations of the ADEA as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The ADEA claims are multifaceted inasmuch as the complaint refers both to a hostile work environment and a discriminatory discharge. 

The lawsuit is a good example of how multiple federal causes of action can arise as a result of an employer’s treatment, or mistreatment, of older workers.  The alleged misconduct in this case occurred during a relatively brief time period, between February of 2011 and July 11, 2011, the date of termination.  Within this relatively brief time period, it is alleged that Wal-Mart created a hostile work environment, failed to correct it upon notification of the problem, and terminated a complaining victim.  It is not clear whether the EEOC contends that Wal-Mart terminated Mr. Moorman in retaliation for his reports of harassment, but a claim for retaliatory discharge is yet another risk for employers under this scenario.  Finally, the ADA claim represents still another statutory violation that the company is alleged to have committed within a relatively brief time frame.

While surprising to read, it is not uncommon to see allegations of this nature.  The “can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is a particularly common statement that appears to be used with some frequency in the American work place. 

As explained, the EEOC has filed this particular lawsuit on behalf of the affected worker.  Notably, just two weeks after filing the lawsuit described above, the EEOC also reported a settlement with Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, in which the company was required to pay $363,419 to resolve an action for sexual harassment and retaliation.  These recent developments show that even the nation's largest companies continue to face substantial liabilities as a result of equal employment opportunity violations.

The majority of age discrimination lawsuits are brought by private law firms after the EEOC concludes an administrative review of a Charge of Discrimination.  The cases are quite complex, both in terms of procedural and proof requirements.  If you are confronting issues or allegations of work place discrimination or harassment, it is important to seek counsel from qualified attorneys in this area.