Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2011

Former KU employee sues for age discrimination

March 31, 2011


A woman who worked at Kansas University for 29 years has filed a federal lawsuit against the university, alleging age discrimination played a role when she was laid off in 2009.

According to the suit filed Tuesday, Cynthia M. Cook is seeking damages in excess of $100,000. Her attorney claims Cook, who was born in 1957 and hired in 1980 as a secretary, was laid off in 2009 and passed over for another KU job that year because of her age. When she left the university, she was an information specialist in the customer service center.

According to KU’s employee newsletter, she was a university support staff employee of the month in August 2008 for her work as part of the computer center’s call desk. Her lawyer argues Cook was more qualified but passed over for another position in favor of one person who was 42 and two who were 29.

The suit names KU and Ola Faucher, KU’s director of human resources and equal opportunity, as defendants. The suit says Faucher informed Cook and six other customer service center employees in 2009 they were being laid off “due to a reorganization caused by budgetary problems.”

“We will reserve further comment for our filings with the court,” KU spokeswoman Jill Jess said. “However, we will vigorously defend this case, and our defense will show these claims have no merit.”


Floyd Craig 6 years, 11 months ago

well the younger person kissd butt a lot better or more then you knmow so many do that these days to get anywhere as they werent taught how to work n get better jobs on thier own and not kiss a butt and get brown all over thier faces

b22 6 years, 11 months ago

"these days" how old are you, quit complaining and go collect your social security they say "don't hate the player, hate the game"

overthemoon 6 years, 11 months ago

at 53, she's not eligible for social security for another 12 years.

overthemoon 6 years, 11 months ago

ok...i misread that. get you hand off your face!

overthemoon 6 years, 11 months ago

ok...i misread that. get you hand off your face!

bluerose 6 years, 11 months ago


but i guess we all need $$ these days.

b22 6 years, 11 months ago

Frivolous lawsuit, Quit complaining and go find a new job! A job is at-will and not an entitlement. If you really think you were qualified go find another job that requires your skill set. This woman is everything that is wrong with the legal system in the U.S. "if you don't get your way, sue." If she does not win this case she should pay for KU's legal fees (i.e. tax payer dollars)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Do you know anything about this, or are you just hating on someone because she is apparently standing up for what she believes, rather than being a sheep (like you?) as you'd have her do?

b22 6 years, 11 months ago

What she believes in is false, no one is entitled to a job, the university can choose their own policies and terminate anyone they choose. People wonder why states and local governments are running out of money, its become too difficult to eliminate workers who are making more than market rate. If someone is willing to do the same job at a lower rate (with similar or better abilities) , why shouldn't the job go to them?

b22 6 years, 11 months ago

Oh Really..."Any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work."

Of course I understand that they can't terminate based on age, gender, religion ect.... but due to budgetary constraints it makes sense to eliminate the higher paid or less productive employee(s). Just because she happens to be older is not the reason it's a simple math equation, they needed to cut X dollars, they can either cut one employee that does the same job as the others OR they can cut two newer employees. Its the joys of a free market society, its not always fair but the dollar is king

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

There are no joys in your cut-throat world, which really just protects the rich, who tell us we're broke, so the poor must pay. (and here's a little secret-- they're liars and thieves.)

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

That's why some of us don't think the free market system is ideal.

"not always fair but the dollar is king"

overthemoon 6 years, 11 months ago

I take that you've not been a 53 year old woman looking for a job these days?

ivalueamerica 6 years, 11 months ago


Frivolous post, delete it, filled with things presented as truth even though they are only uninformed opinions that are contrary to the facts.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 11 months ago

Age discrimination cases are increasing, many times they get laid off because they make more. What ends up biting companies on the butt is when they layoff the one with higher reviews. That's not to hard to prove.

goodcountrypeople 6 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

akuna 6 years, 11 months ago

I've heard such things about Ola Faucher before. Sadly some of the mid-to-upper level management at KU are pretty mean. They manipulate the system to get the people they want where they want them - laws, ethics, and kindness be damned.

Nancy Huckeba 6 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

cowboy 6 years, 11 months ago

If you really want to screw up a workplace start making changes that go against a seniority system. Guaranteed to create a mess.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

I have no problem with the lawsuit. Hopefully, the truth will come out at trial. I do wish our judicial system emulated the British in one regard, I think it would be fair for the losing side to pay the legal fees of the side that wins the suit. Frivolous lawsuits would be greatly curtailed. (Not to say this lawsuit is or is not frivolous).

friendlyjhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

Being selected as Employee of the Year one year does not preclude being laid off the next year. Times change, workers change, job needs change. It is tough for anyone out there looking for a job regardless of age. Just because you didn't get what you wanted is also not a reason for a lawsuit.

xclusive85 6 years, 11 months ago

And according to the story she wasn't even employee of the year, she was employee of one month. Sometimes workplaces decide that an award like that is not to be given to the best employees because the same one or two would win it all the time. They like to spread it around for moral purposes.

greenworld 6 years, 11 months ago

"Her lawyer argues Cook was more qualified but passed over for another position in favor of one person who was 42 and two who were 29." How does she know that she was more qualified?? Because she thinks so or somebody else doesnt think so obviously. Dont tell me she thought this because of her seniority. Seniority means in present day absolutely nothing or in other terms be prepared to be laid off. There is no such thing as loyalty anymore in the business world.

mom_of_three 6 years, 11 months ago

But if they all had the same qualifications, then why did the one with the most seniority get laid off? Usually, its the last one to arrive, not the first one hired.
They may be able to say that they fired the one that made the most, but they also fired the one with the most qualifications and the most experience.
You can tell in some cases if it is frivolous, but I don't think this one is. Yes, Kansas is an 'at will' employer, but that does not mean discrimination does not occur. She probably would have rather taken a pay cut then gotten laid off and losing benefits and trying to find another job. Why didn't they do that????

Nikki May 6 years, 11 months ago

It used to be that newer ones got cut first, but you can bet she was making way more than the newer ones. Recently, it's been the higher paid people that are let go.

The suit says Faucher informed Cook and six other customer service center employees in 2009 they were being laid off “due to a reorganization caused by budgetary problems.”

So, there were other people let go. Where are they? I think she'll have a hard time fighting this. KU could just say they were at fault and pay, just to get passed it. But they would probably win.

xclusive85 6 years, 11 months ago

Well, since she had been there since 1980, there have been many technology advances. I don't know what she would use for her job, but maybe the younger people were more familiar with different operating systems or computer programs. Then the qualifications would not have been the same, even though she had more experience.

Shardwurm 6 years, 11 months ago

Who knows why she got laid off? There is too much missing from the story to determine that.

But in the course of my life I've observed many situations where people were 'qualified' on paper but basically sucked at what they did. Usually those people are the ones who make waves when they're passed over or let go.

Things I'm pretty sure of based on my time in the markeplace (always exceptions - this is just in general):

  1. If you're really good at what you do you will be amongst the last fired no matter what your age, sex, race, or religion.
  2. If you're really good at what you do you will find another job.
  3. If you suck at your job and get fired it's not everyone else's fault - you just suck.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

That's really not true.

Many places will lay off employees who make more money, in order to hire new folks they can pay less.

If you're an older person in their 50's looking for a job, you won't find as many as younger people will - many places don't want to put the effort into training, etc. for someone who is unlikely to stick around for very long.

3 is correct, but there's no evidence at all that this person "sucked" at their job - in fact, they were employee of the year.

The business culture in our country has changed dramatically, and for the worse, since the 1950's, when companies valued loyalty and longevity, and rewarded/encouraged them by offering good wages/benefits, including pension plans.

xclusive85 6 years, 11 months ago

Employee of the year is a little different than employee of the month. Check the story and my 8:47 post.

imastinker 6 years, 11 months ago

Umm...she worked in a call center. How on earth is she more qualified than anyone else there? After the first week, all people there are pretty well equally qualified. If you were to start layoffs why wouldn't you lay off the one that produced the least work per dollar spent?

Is that age discrimination? I don't think so.

It happens all the time in the private sector. You get pay raises every year, and in good times they need you enough that they keep you even though you make more than others that do the same job, so when it's time to cut back you're the first to go. It's not fair but it's hardly age discrimination either.

caesarsghost 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't know the facts in the present case, but would like to correct some incorrect perceptions being perpetuated by some of the posters here. At-will employment does allow an employer to terminate an employee for good cause or for no cause at all, but it does NOT allow an employer to terminate an employee for BAD cause.

"Bad Cause" may include many things. If an employer seeks to make an employee participate in a criminal act and employee refuses. If employer seeks to make employee endanger public health or safety, or to commit fraud, theft, etc. and employee refuses to do so. If an employee reports illegal conduct by the employer and employer retaliates. If employee refuses to work in an environment violating OSHA standards that unlawfully endangers employee's health or safety. If employee reports hiring practices that violate immigration laws, violations of tax laws, OSHA violations, or environmental laws. If an employee is part of a "protected class" that Congress acted to protect by force of statute-- including any who receive disparate treatment or termination directly because of their gender, race, religion, disability, pregnancy, national origin, etc. Or, if an employee acts to protect the rights of another under any such relevant statutes.

The burden will be on this woman to show that she was dismissed because of her age and not some other "non-protected" reason, such as performance.

But it is a completely incorrect statement of the law for any HR director, employee or online news poster to state that an employer in an at-will state can terminate a non-contract employee for good cause, no cause, or even bad cause. (If an employee has a contract, at-will status of the state is irrelevant and suits can be brought for breach of contract or unlawful discrimination or retaliation.) If it is for bad cause, the employer is going to be on the hook for damages.

verity 6 years, 11 months ago

None of us commenting here know the whole story, so many of the assumptions are just ignorant. Do some of you even read the articles before commenting?

She was not fired, she was laid off. She was also passed over for promotion. These are three entirely different things. She apparently is suing for two of them.

KU is a state employer and cannot fire at will. They have to have a case against the employee and unless a person has done something really egregious, that can be hard to do. Also Human Resources is very afraid of lawsuits. So often the people who want to get rid of somebody will just make their life so miserable that they will quit.

But that's not the point here. She was not fired, she was laid off. I believe there are rules concerning who is laid off---some sort of point system, but I don't know what it is. Does anybody know? At least in the past, my understanding was that longevity had something to do with it.

caesarsghost 6 years, 11 months ago

Verity, you raise the most important point(s) here. Thanks for posting.

I know that being laid off is legally irrelevant if it can be shown to have been mere pre-text to conceal an unlawful termination.

I also know that even just making someone's life so miserable that they quit can be just as unlawful as outright firing them. It is called "constructive discharge" and provides the same cause of action for wrongful termination that would have existed if the employer had actually fired them. BUT, because it is usually accompanied by efforts to make someone's life so miserable in an effort to get them to quit on their own, it usually then also creates a cause of action for emotional distress (if the employee had any actual medical treatment necessitated by the employer's behavior and how severely the employer chose to treat the employee) as well.

Most employers willing to carry out constructive discharge do so in the hope that employees will believe they have no legal rights if they quit in those conditions rather than being terminated.

But as you point out, being a state employee creates a different protocol, both for HR and for employees to follow.

I don't know how point systems work, though.

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 11 months ago

I believe KU's classified staff gave away their civil service protections ewhen they boted to opt out of the classified service a few years back.

Big mistake.

Khublai_Juan 6 years, 11 months ago

I worked with Cynthia in her next job after leaving the university and I can say she is very, very nice. That being said, though, our job was computer based and involved call center work and her computer skills were terrible. We expected she would be very proficient because of her work at KU but she seemed lost when asked to do simple tasks on her computer, like working with Excel, Outlook, etc. Not saying this is why they fired her, but I expected someone who worked in the computer center to know more about, well, computers.

xclusive85 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow, assuming what you say is true, my 8:51 post was pretty spot on.

das 6 years, 11 months ago

"...The suit says Faucher informed Cook and six other customer service center employees in 2009 they were being laid off 'due to a reorganization caused by budgetary problems.'..."

Isn't Ola Faucher running for school board too?......Interesting.......

begin60 6 years, 11 months ago

KU deserves every discrimination lawsuit they get. Apparently, when the university has goofed and behaved in a biased, discriminatory way instead of taking decent responsibility the school does their best to save themselves from liability by framing the victim. They have some real hacks of human resource "specialists" investigators over there, and Ola Faucher works hand-in-glove with them and their thuggish and dishonest methods. You have to be pretty inept to put smearing, false, racism charges against someone who was actually the victim of much unwanted molestation and discriminatory harassment on campus and then inform their supervisor of this before offering them any recourse. Decent professionals do not behave this way. It certainly has never happened to me before. Most schools, even in questionably advanced places like MO and NE would at least try to give the appearance of following due process laws--otherwise they'd be opening themselves to defamation and wrongful termination lawsuits. Here, however, the politics and structure of authority are so ingrown and full-of conflict-of-interest and sheep, the vindictive, spite-filled criminals on top have zilch problem with citing false witnesses and tampering with so-called evidence knowing they will not be held accountable.

KU is way too much of a joke even for someone totally passionate about education to want to deal with. My Jewish stepmother jokes her Dad when in the army during her childhood refused to drive through Kansas because of how prejudiced and backward the people are here. I can totally see why.

Synjyn Smythe 6 years, 11 months ago

"The suit says Faucher informed Cook and six other customer service center employees in 2009 they were being laid off 'due to a reorganization caused by budgetary problems.'” Ola sounds like she's ready to take a seat on our school board!!

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