No Probable Cause Found in Age Discrimination Action

Attorneys Matthew Lindberg and Courtney Mayo obtained a finding of no probable cause in an age discrimination action brought before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).  The 59-year old Complainant, a former office manager at a private school, alleged that the school and its committee members had discriminated against her based on age.  Specifically, the Complainant alleged that a school committee member remarked that she had “been there too long” and that “it was time to have new blood.”  Shortly thereafter, the school renewed the Complainant’s employment, but on the condition that she reduce her hours from twenty-two (22) to ten (10) hours per week and that her hourly wage be reduced from over $32.00 per hour to approximately $30.00 per hour.  The Complainant also argued that the reduction in hours made the complainant ineligible to participate in the IRA program.  The Complainant voluntarily gave her notice to the school committee shortly thereafter.  Following the Complainant’s departure, the Respondents hired a replacement office manager in her 40’s to work twenty (20) hours per week at $15.00 per hour.  The Complainant alleged that the school’s actions constituted age discrimination.

The Respondents argued that due to a significant decrease in enrollment, the School Committee chose to alter its operating budget to include a reduction in the office manager position as well as other changes.  The decision to reduce the office manager’s hours was strictly a financial decision, according to the Respondents.  Following the Complainant’s resignation, the Respondents conducted an exit interview and indicated they were willing to work with the Complainant to try to keep her on staff.  The Complainant declined the offer and at no time during the exit interview did the Complainant ever indicate that she felt she was being discriminated against due to her age.

In addition, the Respondents argued that the Complainant’s replacement worked more hours due to the savings the school had achieved by paying the new employee $15.00 per hour.

Lastly, the Respondents argued that the Complaint had been filed more the 300 days after the alleged discriminatory action and, as such, should be time-barred by the statute of limitations.

The MCAD Investigating Commissioner found in favor of the Respondent School and School Committee members.  MCAD determined that while the Complaint had been filed more than 300 days after the alleged discriminatory action, it deferred dismissing the case on this ground.  Instead, MCAD looked to the substance of the Complainant’s allegations.  MCAD found that the Complainant’s contention that her hourly rate would be reduced was mathematically inaccurate and her allegations that she had been rendered ineligible for the IRA program was not supported by the evidence.  Further, MCAD found that the comments allegedly attributable to a school committee member were likely not made in the presence of the complainant and, further, that the comments would have been made during a meeting at which the school committee also opted to hire two teachers who were in their 60’s.  MCAD found that If any adverse comments were made, they were likely related to the length of the Complainant’s service and not her age.

MCAD determined that the Complainant’s allegations of constructive discharge must fail as she was unable to demonstrate that her working conditions were so intolerable due to a discriminatory animus that a reasonable person would have been compelled to resign.  Further, MCAD found that the Complainant and failed to established that she exhausted all reasonable alternatives prior to leaving her employment.  Lastly, MCAD found no individual liability on any of the school committee members with regard to allegations that they had acted in deliberate disregard of the Complainant’s rights allowing the inference of intent to discriminate.