Former restaurant employee alleges age discrimination in federal lawsuit

Jon Campisi Aug. 15, 2011, 6:38am

A Philadelphia woman formerly employed by the Palm Restaurant in the city’s ritzy Rittenhouse section has filed a job discrimination lawsuit against the eatery and its parent company, alleging her termination was age-related.

Philadelphia attorneys Stephen G. Console and Caren N. Gurmankin filed the federal lawsuit Aug. 11 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The Palm Restaurant of Philadelphia Inc., located at 200 S. Broad St., and both the Palm Management Corp. and the Palm Restaurant, Inc., both based in Washington, D.C., are named as defendants.

At issue in the complaint is whether Arleen Weitz’s firing violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The lawsuit states that Weitz was 61 when she was fired from her job on June 30, 2010, four years after she started her employment for the company as a catering sales manager.

According to the complaint, in May 2010 Weitz received high marks during a performance review. Still, she was soon unexpectedly placed on a “Performance Improvement Plan.” After about a month, and without having been informed of any problems, Weitz was abruptly fired, and replaced by a then-part-time restaurant hostess who was 30 years younger than the plaintiff, the lawsuit states.

During the course of her four-year employment, the complaint alleges, the defendants engaged in age-discriminatory conduct, including prohibiting the plaintiff from sitting at the bar to have a drink, despite the fact that other employees were allowed to do the same.

The complaint also states that restaurant management “unjustifiably” criticized Weitz in front of colleagues, but never did the same to younger staff members.

The suit paints a picture of widespread age discrimination, with management occasionally talking of a need to replace other older employees with younger ones.

“Defendants failed to prevent or address the discriminatory conduct referred to herein and further failed to take appropriate corrective and/or remedial measures to make the workplace free of discriminatory conduct,” the lawsuit states.

As a result of her firing, Weitz claims she has suffered not only a loss of earnings, but also embarrassment, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, mental anguish and loss of life’s pleasures.

Through her lawsuit, Weitz seeks to have the restaurant’s practices deemed in violation of state and federal law, recover unspecified compensatory damages to make up for her lost earnings, and recover the costs of the lawsuit.

Weitz has demanded a jury trial.

Accompanying the lawsuit as exhibits are papers showing Weitz also filed her complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05132-MAM.

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