Sedona Tour Operator Unlawfully Fired 75-year-old Because of Age, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX – Red Rock Western Jeep Tours, Inc. has been ordered by a consent decree to pay $35,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today.
The settlement ends a lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Red Rock in September 2009 in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (Case No. 3:09-CV-8147- DKD). In the lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Red Rock, which operates jeep tours in Sedona, Ariz., fired Gloria Rose, a reservationist, because of her age.
According to the EEOC, Rose was hired and told to return a “new hire” packet, which contained various forms such as tax and direct deposit forms. When Rose returned the forms the next day, a supervisor met with her and, among other things, asked Rose for her age. Rose responded that she was 75 years old. After that meeting, Rose did not hear from Red Rock for several days. Rose sent an e-mail to Red Rock inquiring as to when her start date would be. Red Rock responded that the general manager and supervisor did not think Rose was “the right person” for the job. Rose responded with an e-mail inquiring as to how they could make that determination without actually seeing her work product. Rose informed Red Rock that she believed she had been discriminated against on the basis of her age.
After receiving this e-mail, Red Rock then decided to hire her, only to terminate her after only two days of work, the EEOC said. Rose was not even trained for the full two days as she was sent on several jeep tours lasting several hours. The EEOC further alleged that Red Rock replaced Rose by substantially younger employees.
As part of the decree settling the suit, Red Rock is mandated to adopt an anti-discrimination policy and to provide anti-discrimination training for all of its employees involved in the hiring process. Red Rock is also enjoined from engaging in any further age discrimination or retaliation.
“Companies cannot terminate or refuse to hire qualified older workers because of their age; it is illegal and violates federal law,” said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Some employers seem to be tempted to hire younger workers for jobs which entail interacting with the public on behalf of the company. However, a company which fails to hire or terminates qualified workers because of their age does so at its peril because such actions may be unlawful.”
EEOC Acting Phoenix District Director Julie Bowman said, “Because of the EEOC’s nationwide jurisdiction, the EEOC will attempt to eradicate discrimination wherever it is found. In small or large towns across the United States, we encourage all workers who believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of their age to come forward and present their claims of discrimination to the EEOC.”
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination against applicants and employees who are 40 years old or older. Employers, therefore, must not harass, fail to hire, fail to promote, layoff, terminate, or otherwise discriminate against persons who are 40 years old or older because of age.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.