He Called Older Employees ‘Dead Wood.’ Two Sued for Age Discrimination.


Eventually, more than 20 E.S.L. staffers were squeezed out, their positions threatened with elimination or reclassification at lower salaries. When Ms. Taaffe lodged a formal complaint, a university investigation brought no action.

She lost 23 pounds and developed the beginnings of an ulcer. Ms. Moon, who said the conflict “felt like a giant knot in the pit of my stomach for months and months,” suffered insomnia and back spasms.

In 2014, both women retired years before they’d intended, because they expected to lose their positions and faced prohibitively expensive health insurance costs if they delayed. Neither could find a comparable position elsewhere.

Recent events have brought some vindication, however.

In November, the E.E.O.C. found “reasonable cause to believe” that the women and their older colleagues had been discriminated against, a violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers 40 and older.

Then, very quietly, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, Ohio State announced a settlement.

“The Ohio State University is committed to hiring and retaining a diverse and inclusive work force,” the university said in a statement to The Times. The university denied that it had acted unlawfully and took no action against any employee.

But the university has rehired both women and agreed to back pay and retroactive benefits totaling about $203,000 for Ms. Taaffe and $237,000 for Ms. Moon. It also paid $325,000 in attorneys’ fees to the Gittes Law Group, the firm representing the women, and the AARP Foundation lawyers who joined their suit.

More important, the plaintiffs won “prospective injunctive relief,” actions to avert illegal policies in the future. Ohio State has agreed to train human resources staff to recognize, investigate and prevent age discrimination.



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