Company Fired A 78-Year-Old Worker Who Had Just Been Named Employee Of The Year — And Now Has To Pay Her $78K

Age discrimination is far to common, especially among women.

Older woman working fizkes / Shutterstock

A 78-year-old woman from Georgia received quite a hefty settlement after filing a lawsuit against her former employer. 

Shirley Noble, who worked as an operator of a retirement facility in Columbus, Georgia, for the last 14 years, was suddenly terminated and decided to take legal action after learning the real reason she'd been fired.

The company fired her despite naming her Employee of the Year because they believed she was too old to continue working.

According to a lawsuit filed in a district court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in February 2022, Noble was fired from her receptionist position at the Covenant Woods Retirement Community in Columbus. In the suit, the EEOC alleged that the company fired the "long-tenured receptionist, despite having recognized the 78-year-old employee as one of its employees of the year in January 2022."

@cbsnews A 78-year-old woman was named employee of the year – and then fired weeks later after a brief stay in the hospital. Now, her former employer has to pay her $78,000. Here’s why. #lawsuit #georgia #employment #workersrights ♬ original sound - cbsnews

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After a brief hospital stay, Noble returned to work only to find a younger, new employee seated at her desk. In a meeting with her manager the following day, she was questioned about "how long she planned to continue to work, whether she needed to work, and whether she would prefer to spend her time traveling and seeing family instead of working."

Clearly attempting to discriminate against Noble because of her age, the 78-year-old woman argued that she still had a desire to work for at least 2 to 3 more years. However, the next day, she was terminated due to a loss of confidence in her abilities, with her hospitalization cited as a concern that led to the decision. 

Unfortunately, age discrimination is something women experience at higher levels than men.

According to findings published in the Harvard Business Review, women face age bias whether they are young, middle-aged, or older. 

Younger women face barriers to promotion because their superiors view them as too inexperienced, while those in middle age are often thought to have too many family burdens. Older women are also viewed as unworthy of a promotion.

@envisioninclusion #stitch with @Andie Jiménez Turns out that there is no “right” age to be a professional woman and women experience ageism at all ages, so do whatever you want with your hair.#ageism #silversisters #greyhair #womeninbusiness ♬ original sound - Envision Inclusion

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During Noble's meeting, the general manager offered her three options: work the receptionist role on Sundays only, transfer to another unspecified position in an unspecified department, or accept a "volunteer ambassador" role without pay, per the complaint. 

Noble then asked to have another 30 days at the receptionist position "so that she could have a chance to address any concerns about her performance," but was allegedly told the offer of working as a receptionist was no longer an option.


Noble ultimately declined the alternatives provided to her and a termination letter was sent out the following day.

Noble's former employer was forced to pay the settlement amount she presented in the lawsuit.

Covenant Woods agreed to settle the lawsuit for $78,000. The company is required to pay Noble in full and she will receive $50,000 for compensatory damages and $28,000 for wages.

"Employers have a responsibility to evaluate an employee’s performance without regard to age if the employee is 40 and over, and without regard to an actual or perceived disability," Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said after announcing the settlement payment.

@cagedbirdhr The time between her termination and the comments being made to her about retirement likely made it more likely than not the termination was age related. Especially given she was just named employee of the year. #askhr #cagedbirdhr #work #careers @Cierra CEO ♬ Devil Doesn’t Bargain - Alec Benjamin

Keegan continued, "The EEOC is pleased that through this early resolution, the former receptionist will be compensated, and that Covenant Woods has agreed to take steps to ensure that it meets its obligations under the ADEA and the ADA going forward."


The disappointing reality is that Noble's experience is not uncommon — it highlights a prevalent issue for women in the workforce. Her determination to seek justice sends a powerful message to other women that they should never accept this type of treatment because of their age, gender, or another characteristic embedded in this patriarchal society.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.