In a recent discussion with CNBC Europe, Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini discussed the future of Aetna and the upcoming move of its headquarters from Hartford, Connecticut. During the discussion, Bertolini stated that Aetna needed to attract different types of people “…younger people, technologists, innovation.”
While this comment alone is probably not enough to prove a claim of age discrimination, it could be evidence of unlawful age bias if a qualified worker over 40 was fired and replaced by a younger employee or a qualified prospective employee over the age of 40 was not hired in favor of a less qualified but younger applicant. Comments along the lines of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” that older employees are not as “tech savvy” as young employees or that suggest a preference for younger workers can be evidence in an age discrimination lawsuit. State and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee or prospective employee based upon his or her age. In order to be protected under these laws, an employee must be 40 years of age, otherwise qualified to perform the job, and suffered an adverse job action (i.e. not get hired or lose a job) under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination.