Memo to the Boss: Don't Put It in Writing
ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - In a series of blatant memos, a nationwide flooring company overtly excluded older workers and women from its future, in favor of "the main players, those of you who are in your 20s, 30s and 40s," a fired manager claims in court.
Cheryl Cannedy sued LG Hausys America, in Bernalillo County Court. She was a territory manager for all of New Mexico for the Atlanta-based flooring firm, and was 64 when it fired her in October 2012. The EEOC issued her a Right to Sue Letter in March this year, she says in the complaint. She said she had annual sales of $1.7 million and was a top performer when she was fired.
Citing "companywide memorand(a)," The 15-page lawsuit reads in places like a "How To Get Sued" booklet on age discrimination.
Cannedy cites a Nov. 1, 2011 "companywide memorandum" in which LG allegedly wrote: "These days, the young population aged between 20 and 40 has become a major force not just in our society but in our company as well. ... To maintain the positive momentum, I would like to encourage the main players, those of you who are in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, to exert your full capability and suggest good ideas to make LA Hausys a top-tier company, and spearhead changes in the corporate culture with active communication." (Ellipsis in complaint.)
A month later, LG plowed ahead with another companywide memo, to "introduce 'Happy Change' in our company," Cannedy says, citing a memo from CEO Myeung-Ho Han, called "Voluntary Drive for Innovation by All.)
Cannedy says this memo too overtly "articulated the persistent and prevailing corporate culture discriminating against employees over 50 and women."
The CEO wrote this time: "Now that the younger generation aged between 20 and 40 constantly look for new things and the world changes at a fast pace, it is apparent that the top-down business approach is no longer valid for innovation," according to the complaint.
The CEO did it again in a Jan. 2, 2012 memo, Cannedy says. This time, Cannedy says, he wrote that "the changing environment is not just a phase in a cycle. Rather, it is a transitional period where new trends of the value system and economic and political order are being set by the young generation who is tech-savvy, active in communicating over the Internet and equipped with new knowledge. I believe it is time for us to think about how to turn this time of change into an opportunity for transformation."
And in an Oct. 8, 2012 memo about the year to come ("Let Us Prepare for 2013 With Our Passion and Capabilities") the company said 2013 "would be a difficult year, in part because of the 'population aging,'" Cannedy says.
This memo laid out a plan "'to provide more reward for performance and train and pick out young and competent businessmen in early stages in order to build an organization that gets the job done that are required [sic] to become a market leader,'" according to the complaint.
It continues: "Defendant LG reorganized its business to the detriment of older 'aging' and female employees such as plaintiff."
Cannedy claims that "LG's CEO conveyed that an employee's age and gender would be used as measures of performance.
"Defendant LG's CEO stated that older employees were holding the company back and that young employees were the future of the company."
LG fired Cannedy seven days later. She claims that seven other older employees were fired at about the same time, whose ages were 63, 59, 68, 63, 58, and two ages unknown. Cannedy says she was replaced by a 48-year-old white man.
She seeks lost wages and benefits and punitive damages for violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, gender and age discrimination, pain and suffering and damage to reputation.
She is represented by David Ray Rosales with Rosales Law Group, of Albuquerque.