Age discrimination lawsuits have been cropping up around the industry in recent years, and Eli Lilly is no stranger to such claims. Now, the company is defending against age discrimination allegations from a federal agency.
In a new lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the company snubbed older workers for sales representative positions from April 2017 to 2021.
The agency says Lilly changed its hiring preferences in 2017 after its senior vice president for human resources and diversity highlighted that its workforce was composed of older workers at a leadership town hall. The exec went on to announce goals for “Early Career” hiring, aiming to add more millennials to the workforce, EEOC says.
That move was the catalyst for the company intentionally under-hiring older candidates for the sales rep positions, the lawsuit alleges.
The actions, if proven true, would violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against applicants over 40 years of age. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, comes after the sides failed to reach a pre-litigation settlement, according to a statement from the agency.
Eli Lilly denied the allegations, telling Fierce Pharma in an emailed statement that it “does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, protected veteran status, disability or any other legally protected status.”
“We deny the allegations in the complaint. We remain committed to fostering and promoting a culture of diversity and respect,” a spokesperson said in the statement.
The lawsuit seeks back pay and liquidated damages for the applicants affected by the alleged age discrimination, as well as injunctive relief to “prevent and correct” age discrimination and provide training for managers and supervisors regarding federal equal employment opportunity laws.
It’s not the first time Eli Lilly has faced age discrimination claims. Last September, two job applicants proposed a class-action lawsuit claiming that the company “systematically excluded” older candidates for sales positions in favor of younger workers. The plaintiffs alleged that the company hired interns for sales rep positions under there were “no interns left.”
But Eli Lilly isn’t alone in facing age bias claims. In June, EEOC sued Novo Nordisk for allegedly denying a lateral transfer to a 62-year-old and giving the job it to a less-qualified 33-year-old instead. And in 2018, Biogen faced a lawsuit for allegedly stripping a former manufacturing executive, Jack Armitage, of his responsibilites and giving his job to a younger colleague. Armitage said he was left with busy work until his eventual termination.