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Valuing Longevity is Not Age Discrimination

Gary Wrolstad worked for CUNA Mutual Life Insurance for 25 years, until his position was eliminated. He was 52 years old. He applied for other positions, including one job for which a 23-year-old male was hired. Ultimately, he signed a severance agreement and left the company. However, Mr. Wrolstad sued CUNA, alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case and ruled against Mr. Wrolstad, finding that he could not show that CUNA discriminated against him based on his age. He lacked the skills necessary for the position and he requested a salary of $55,000, which fell on the upper range of the pay scale. The 23-year-old who was hired had relevant prior experience and requested a salary of $35,000, which was within the range that the company sought to pay. One of the reasons Mr. Wrostad pursued the matter was the screening interviewer’s note that the 23-year-old would “inevitably stay with the company for many years to come.” However, the appellate court did not find the comment to be evidence of age bias. Rather, the comment was believed to have been made because the individual had sought employment within the company numerous times and would likely want to remain. As CUNA had legitimate reasons for denying his employment, Mr. Wrolstad could not sustain his claim.