Kmart Accused of Age Discrimination

Jul 09, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A lawyer, Hilary K. Johnson, representing a Kmart worker who is suing her employer for age discrimination bluntly says the retailer wants “to get rid of older people.”

According to Ms. Johnson and her client, 53-year old Doris Andrezyski, Kmart demoted full-time managers to part-time employees working 20 hours a week causing them to lose medical and other employment benefits.

The suit filed against Kmart alleges the company demoted mostly older women in its attempt to reduce costs.

Jim McFall, a Kmart district manager who supervised the store where Ms. Andrezyski worked, told the Associated Press he can understand employees feeling angry.

“Unfortunately, it’s the second time we’ve done it in less than a year,” he said. “They’ve done it to assistant managers too. You talk about going from making quite a bit of money to losing it all.”

Mr. McFall said Ms. Andrezyski is wrong about the motives behind the moves. “Age discrimination had nothing to do with it, gosh no,” he said. “There were a lot more people there with a lot more years and tenure than her.”

The decision on which employees were demoted, said Mr. McFall, was “based on rankings and merit.”

Ms. Andrezyski has been a Kmart employee for 34 years.

According to her lawyer, “There were two young guys who hadn’t been there nearly as long as the women, and they were cut back to 30 (hours), but they were entitled to keep all of their (benefits).”

Moderator’s Comment: With an aging labor force, how do retailers make tough decisions about laying-off or demoting
employees without getting involved in continuous litigation over age discrimination?

This is just one of the many employee relations issues (perceived or real) Kmart faces as it tries to fix its business. At some juncture, management will
have to deal with its employee morale problems.

George Anderson – Moderator

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