Thursday, September 21, 2023
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Guitar Center ‘Grenade’ Claims May Be Ageist

(CN) - A federal judge refused to dismiss the age-discrimination claims of a man who says that Guitar Center falsely accused him of threatening to strap grenades to himself.

Glen Nolle began working as a salesperson at Guitar Center in Monroeville, Pa., in 2005, and was transferred to its Robinson Township store in 2008.

Nolle, who was 54 in 2009, allegedly began having some disagreements with his 42-year-old coworker, Michael Rushlander, and eventually reported Rushlander to their manager.

Although he performed well at both locations, Nolle said Guitar Center transferred him back to the Monroeville location after a disagreement with Rushlander. He says he had been the eldest employee at the Robinson store at the time.

As a result, Nolle "went from earning a livable wage to earning almost nothing," and he "could not continue to work for Guitar Center and maintain his standard of living," according to the amended complaint.

Nolle says he lost his client base and commissions earned in Robinson, and he had to work shifts with lower customer volume and fewer hours than younger, less qualified employees.

Guitar Center also allegedly subjected Nolle to a number of disciplinary measures. In one instance he was falsely accused of saying that he would strap hand grenades to himself, and another time he faced claims of giving guitar lessons outside of work, according to the complaint.

Nolle says he filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but eventually resigned after the harassment and misconduct accusations would not abate.

Nolle sued Guitar Center for constructive discharge in November 2011 and filed an amended complaint in June 2012.

U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak refused to dismiss the claim, finding that Nolle had alleged multiple violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1969.

While Guitar Center claimed that Nolle's complaint could and should have provided the specific amount by which his wages were reduced, the court disagreed.

"Nolle's description of his reduction in pay, while left to be fleshed out with precision during discovery, does allege sufficient facts to show entitlement for a claim to relief and put defendant on notice of the nature and basis of his claim," the seven-page opinion states.

Transferring Nolle to an allegedly less desirable position, as well as the grenade- and guitar lesson-related accusations, also constitute age-discrimination claims, according to the ruling.

"In sum, at this point in the litigation, Mr. Nolle has alleged sufficient facts to make it plausible to conclude that he could satisfy the elements of a constructive discharge claim, and that he suffered a constructive discharge at the hands of Guitar Center," Hornak wrote.

"At this point, it is not necessary for the court to conclude that on the facts alleged he will prevail, only that he may do so. Mr. Nolle's allegations rise well beyond the level of 'threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,'" he added.

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