Three former AARP communications staffers are suing the organization, saying they lost their jobs due to age discrimination and in retaliation for comments they made about a senior staffer in two internal investigations.
Mark Bagley, age 65; Tara Dunio, 52; and Terrence Banks, 55, all worked in AARP’s media relations department and were laid off March 6 as part of a restructuring, according to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
On January 22, AARP SVP of media relations Jason Young and an HR staffer told Bagley, Dunion and Banks that their jobs were among 11 media relations roles being eliminated in the restructuring. The three staffers were told if they wanted to stay at AARP, they would have to apply for jobs in the restructured media relations department, called external relations, or find a role elsewhere in the organization, according to court documents. Only two employees, Young and a 30-year-old junior media relations analyst, would not have to reapply for their positions.
The three did reapply, but were ultimately let go along with four other unnamed staffers aged 38, 54, 58 and 79. AARP denied in court documents that a 79-year-old was not selected.
Bagley, Dunion and Banks also said in the suit that all four people retained after the reorganization were younger: two staffers in their 30s and two in their early 40s. AARP acknowledged that two people in their 40s were retained in court documents.
Bagley, Dunion and Banks also alleged they were not rehired in retaliation for providing negative comments about Young during investigations into two separate complaints made against him. One employee alleged religious discrimination, the other sexual and racial discrimination.
Two AARP staffers who filed complaints against Young did not respond to requests for comment. Bagley, Dunion and Banks did not respond to requests for comment. Young could not be reached for comment, and AARP declined to comment because the lawsuit involves personnel issues.
AARP EVP, CCO and CMO Martha Boudreau also did not respond to a request seeking comment.
AARP acknowledged it held the investigations but denied, in its response to the lawsuit, that Bagley, Dunion and Banks were not rehired because of comments they made. It also denied that Young tried to ferret out what they had said and treated them poorly for cooperating with the investigations.
Bagley, Dunion and Banks are each making two counts of retaliation and two counts of age discrimination in the suit under the DC Human Rights Act of 1977.
AARP has denied all of the allegations and made several legal technical challenges against the suit in its official response to the lawsuit.
The discovery period for the case is set to close on January 11, 2021, and a post-discovery status conference has been scheduled for January 19, 2021. The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial.
AARP is an advocacy and lobbying group for people aged 50-plus. In 2018, its consolidated operating revenue was $1.6 billion, up slightly compared to 2017. The organization has not reported its 2019 earnings.
In February, AARP shifted its PR account away from Omnicom agency FleishmanHillard to Interpublic Group shop Golin and retained incumbent Rogers & Cowan/PMK. AARP worked with Rogers & Cowan before the firm was merged with fellow IPG entertainment-focused agency PMK.
This article first appeared on prweek.com