Employer Fired 78-Year-Old Employee and Now Owes Her $78,000 From Age and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 07, 2024

The operator of Covenant Woods Senior Living, a retirement home located in Columbus, Georgia, fired their 78-year-old employee, Shirley Noble. 

Noble quickly filed a lawsuit, claiming that her employer fired her because of her age. Now, Covenant Woods Senior Living has to pay Noble $78,000.

Noble’s Career

Shirley Noble worked at Covenant Woods Senior Living in Columbus, Georgia for 14 years as a receptionist. In 2021, she was even the retirement facility’s employee of the year.

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However, when Noble was briefly hospitalized, she returned to work only to realize that something was amiss. Soon enough, her entire career — and life — would change. 

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Hiring a Younger Employee

During Noble’s stay at a hospital, Covenant hired another receptionist to take her place while she was gone. When Noble returned to work, she met this new hire — a much younger worker.

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This younger worker was at her desk and had seemingly taken her spot while Noble was briefly away dealing with her hospitalization. 

Hints of a Firing

One day after Noble met this new, younger hire, Noble explained in court documents that her manager called her into a meeting. During this meeting, Noble was asked about whether she truly needed to keep working.

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Noble also claimed that her manager asked her how long she planned on staying in the workforce. In this meeting, Noble explained she would like to keep working for possibly two to three more years.

Noble’s Firing

The next day after this meeting, Noble was told by Covenant that she would be let go from her job there as a receptionist. 

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According to Covenant, she was let go because they now had lost confidence in her ability to work for them. They used her brief hospitalization as a reason for why this loss of confidence had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. 

Noble’s Lawsuit

After being fired from her place of work of 14 years, Noble quickly decided to file a lawsuit. This lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

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According to the suit, Noble claimed that she was discriminated against because of her age — which is illegal. 

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Employers’ Responsibilities

Marcus Keegan, an attorney for EEOC’s Atlanta district office, explained the responsibility that employers have.

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Keegan stated, “Employers have a responsibility to evaluate an employee’s performance without regard to age, if the employee is 40 and over, and without regard to an actual or perceived disability.”

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A $78,000 Settlement

Rather than allow this case to go all the way to court, Covenant has decided to settle with Noble. As a result of this settlement, Covenant will have to pay Noble $78,000.

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Covenant is owned by BrightSpace Senior Living, which operates many senior homes in different states. According to BrightSpace Chief Financial Officer Brian Hendricks, this settlement was agreed upon because they didn’t want to deal with the cost of a long court case.

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This Settlement Does Not Prove Wrongdoing

Hendricks further explained that this settlement does not prove that Covenant did anything wrong. 

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Henricks stated, “We do not admit wrongdoing or discriminatory conduct as part of this resolution. Covenant Woods and BrightSpace Senior Living remain committed to compliance with all discrimination and labor and employment laws.”

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Paying Noble in Full

According to the agreement filed in court, Covenant must pay Noble in full. They will not space out the payments to her at all.

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Thus, Noble will receive the full $78,000. Compensatory damages were found to be $50,000, while she is also being awarded $28,000 in wages. 

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What the Law Says

According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, workers who are at least 40 years of age are protected by law from discrimination against their age in the workplace.

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This means that employers cannot discriminate — or fire — employees over the age of 40, simply because they are “older.” 

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Laws for Younger Workers

While this law fights to end age discrimination in the workplace, it only targets older workers who are in the workforce. It does not aid younger workers who may be discriminated against, simply because of their youth.

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However, some state laws have been put in place to help fight discrimination against young employees, too. 

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