GNC faces age discrimination complaint from fired 31-year employee

Jon Campisi Feb. 17, 2012, 6:59am

A Bucks County, Pa. woman who worked for GNC for more than three decades before her firing earlier this winter has filed a federal age discrimination lawsuit against the Pennsylvania-based nutrition retailer, contending her termination was related to her age and complaints about reduced work hours.

Blue Bell, Pa. employment attorney Andrew S. Abramson filed the civil action Feb. 15 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Levittown resident Genevieve Smith.

The defendant in the lawsuit is General Nutrition Centers, specifically the company’s retail location within the Neshaminy Mall in Cornwell Heights, Pa.

In her complaint, Smith, who is 76 and was hired by the company in February 1980, alleges she was fired from the Neshaminy Mall GNC location following complaints about her work hours being reduced.

The lawsuit claims that Smith, who often worked 40 hours per week – although she was considered by the company to be a part-time employee, without the perks of employment benefits – was terminated on Nov. 1, 2011, four months after her work hours were reduced.

When Smith learned her hours were being reduced, she questioned the move, but was not provided with any “reasonable explanation” for the reduction, the suit states.

The weekly work hours that were taken from Smith were assigned to “substantially younger male employees,” the lawsuit claims.

Upon her termination, Smith was told she was being let go because of poor work performance, and that her “last two weeks worth of numbers were below company standards.”

The lawsuit, however, maintains that in her 31 years of employment, Smith never received poor job ratings.

“The reasons proffered by Defendant GNC for the termination of Plaintiff Smith’s employment are pretextual,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant was actually motivated by a practice and pattern of discriminating against employees based upon age and/or sex.”

The lawsuit claims that most of the age and sex discrimination toward Smith began to occur last year, soon after the hiring of a new regional sales director for the division in which Smith’s GNC store was located.

“Defendant GNC’s actions were willful and outrageous in that their motives and conduct as set forth above was malicious, wanton, reckless and oppressive,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that the defendant’s firing of Smith violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Smith seeks compensatory damages in excess of $150,000, in addition to liquidated damages, attorney’s fees and other court costs.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00807-RK.

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