CHICAGO — Ashley Furniture has won a round in one of the lawsuits filed against it for allegedly discriminating against older managers in a bid to hire "millennials," as a federal judge has dismissed, for now, a former manager’s age discrimination lawsuit because the judge determined the man had failed to properly name his employer in a discrimination claim filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
On Jan. 22, U.S. District Judge Judge Virginia M. Kendall ruled in Chicago federal court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by plaintiff and former Ashley Furniture manager Humberto Trujillo against Rockledge Furniture LLC, a subsidiary of Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., as the judge said the requirement to state a claim against a defendant for an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) lawsuit is that a plaintiff must first “exhaust his administrative remedies with the EEOC."
She gave Trujillo the chance to file a new complaint, addressing that shortcoming, if he could.
Trujillo is one of several employees that have filed discrimination suits against the company recently, but the only employee thus far who did not give the correct employer information to the EEOC, court documents said.
Trujillo was fired after having worked at an Ashley Furniture Homestore in Illinois as a manager for almost 10 years, from 2007 to 2016. Trujillo claims the corporation’s management repeatedly stressed that the company needed to focus on hiring more "millennials," regardless of how it affected the older employees, such as himself.
Trujillo also claims that he was denied promotions, and that a young sales manager on his team was promoted after he reported to the company on multiple occasions about her failure to perform or show up to work. Trujillo was fired after the company conducted a store audit. He filed a charge with the EEOC in March 2016.
However, it was discovered that Trujillo did not list Rockledge on his EEOC claim, but insted listed another Ashley Furniture store in Texas, one not affiliated with Rockledge. The Texas company sent a response to the EEOC that Trujillo had never worked there.
The EEOC spoke to Trujillo’s attorney, obtained the correct employer address and information, and dismissed the suit because Trujillo had filed with the wrong company.
Rockledge filed a motion to dismiss Trujillo’s lawsuit for failure to state a claim because he had failed to exhaust remedies with the EEOC before filing a claim. Trujillo claims that because the EEOC did not follow up with the correct employer information, and other employees had filed suit, Rockledge should have known about the charge.
The judge, however, disagreed.
“The fact that Rockledge received notice of EEOC charges filed by other individuals - over a year after Trujillo’s charge - is neither persuasive nor is it supported with any case law suggesting that this qualifies as constructive notice...” Kendall said in the opinion. “Trujillo must do more in his amended complaint, if possible, to show how Rockledge knew or should have known of the EEOC charge."
Trujillo is represented in the action by attorneys with Stowell & Friedman Ltd., of Chicago.
Rockledge is represented by the firm of Littler Mendelson P.C., of Chicago.