Fidelity responds to age discrimination allegations

By Taryn Phaneuf | Jan 9, 2017

PITTSBURGH — A former broker claims his former employer, Fidelity Brokerage Services, promoted a younger worker from another office to replace him after he was fired without an explanation in April, but the company is refuting those allegations.

Thomas E. Preston worked nearly 30 years in the financial industry and was hired by Fidelity in 2011 as a financial consultant. He filed a complaint Dec. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against his former employer, alleging that Fidelity violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

According to his suit, Preston was 56 years old and the oldest consultant at Fidelity at the time of his termination. Fidelity denies his allegations.

“Fidelity creates an inclusive work environment and recognizes the value that employees’ similarities and differences can bring to the workplace,” Stephen Austin, a spokesman for Fidelity, told the Pennsylvania Record.

“We do not tolerate improper discrimination and harassment, including on the basis of age.”

On the day he was terminated, Preston had been called into a meeting with two corporate investigators who asked questions about how he handled the cases of four clients he’d taken credit for working on in the past, he alleges in court documents.

At the time, he asked the investigators to give him time to review the client files so he could provide more details about his work, but they refused his request, he claims.

The lawsuit claims that, since 2014, Fidelity has had a system in place that allowed consultants like Preston to note that they’d done work on a specific account so they could be paid for that work. For the four clients mentioned by the corporate investigators, Preston earned less than $1,000, he alleges.

For one of the clients, Preston didn’t originally get the credit for his work because a co-worker took credit without ever speaking with the client, the plaintiff alleged in court documents. He claims he explained the scenario to the investigators, including that the situation was rectified and he later received the credit he was due.

At the end of the meeting, Preston was told to take the rest of the day off, his suit alleges, adding that later the same day, he was called to say he’d been terminated. Preston claims his termination went unexplained.

He alleges Fidelity then filed a form with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that stated he was discharged because he’d violated investment-related statutes, regulations or industry standards of conduct. He claims he didn’t violate any rules or regulations and Fidelity didn’t conduct a thorough investigation because he wasn’t given a chance to tell his side of the story.

The form submitted by Fidelity states that it determined Preston “violated department procedures by recording a detailed customer interaction for purposes of performance credit without actually having had the requisite degree of interaction with the customer," the lawsuit says.

Preston claims he was replaced by a young man in his late 20s or early 30s who was transferred from the company’s office in Cleveland and promoted.

Preston claims Fidelity’s “wrongful, discriminatory and defamatory” actions prevented him from getting further employment in the industry.

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