(Reuters) — Eli Lilly and Co. was sued Monday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which accused the drug maker of illegally refusing to hire older workers for sales jobs because of their age.
The complaint said Lilly’s violations began after Stephen Fry, its senior vice president of human resources and diversity, lamented during a “Leadership Town Hall” in April 2017 that its sales force was skewed toward older workers, with 20% fewer “millennials” than the U.S. . Labour.
According to the EEOC, Mr. Fry that the lack of millennials was a problem, and the Indianapolis-based company would aim for 40% “early career” hiring.
Managers then changed their hiring practices for salespeople, sometimes requiring greater review and approval before extending offers to older candidates, even after some realized the 40% target was illegal, the EEOC said. The target remained until 2021, it added.
Lilly, in a statement, denied the allegations and said it was “committed to fostering and promoting a culture of diversity and respect.”
The suit, filed in Indianapolis federal court, accused Lilly of violating the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
It seeks to permanently enjoin future discrimination, recover wages and other damages for people not hired because of their age, and improve training for supervisors and managers.
“This case underscores the continued need for the EEOC to break down barriers to employment” for older Americans as they work longer hours and in greater numbers, Robert Weisberg, an EEOC attorney who helped bring the case, said in a statement.
Lilly’s best-selling product is Trulicity, a treatment for type 2 diabetes.
On August 11, Lilly said that Mr. Fry was set to retire at the end of 2022 after more than 35 years with the company.
The case is EEOC v. Lilly USA LLCUS District Court, Southern District of Indiana.