Worker Debra Moreno Wins $193,000 in 'Bag of Bones' Ageism Lawsuit

Debra Moreno age discrimination lawsuit

Her manager said she was a thorough and efficient worker, but the company's owner reportedly thought that Debra Moreno, an office coordinator in Maui, sounded "old on the phone" and looked "like a bag of bones." The owner, Carolyn Frutoz-De Harne, also allegedly told one of her managers that Moreno wasn't the type of worker she wanted representing her company, Hawaii Healthcare Professionals Inc., which provides home health care for seniors.

So after Hawaii Healthcare in 2008 decided to lay off the then-54-year-old Moreno, the manager, unnamed in accounts of the case, reportedly told Moreno of the owner's views.
In 2010 Moreno filed a complaint of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against her former employer. And a judge on Thursday ordered Hawaii Healthcare to pay Moreno $193,236 in the lawsuit that the EEOC brought in her behalf against the company and its owner, Frutoz-De Harne.


"When someone says I look like a bag of bones or I sound old on the telephone or I look old, it's pretty hurtful," Moreno told Hawaii's KHON-TV. "I was embarrassed and demoralized," she told the EEOC. "Age had never before been a consideration for me.... The court's decision makes me feel optimistic and vindicated."

Hawaii Healthcare made no comment to the media about the settlement and reportedly has closed shop in the meantime -- a move that might complicate the payout to Moreno.

Age discrimination cases are very rarely clear-cut, experts say. And what often complicates such matters is that, when the cause is age, employers can often come up with an alternative reason for why they are terminating a worker. And for their part, workers are often loath to pursue such cases out of fear of the consequences in the labor market.

But this case in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii was noteworthy for its accusations of outlandish discrimination, said the EEOC in a news release on the lawsuit. "What makes this case especially appalling is the flagrant disregard for a worker's abilities, coupled with disparaging ageist remarks and thinking," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which oversees the agency's litigation in Hawaii.

More: 20 Best Jobs If You're Over 50


But beyond the specifics of Moreno's case, her experience is of a piece with her times. According to the EEOC, charges of age discrimination reached 23,465 in fiscal year 2011. That figure represents a roughly 40 percent uptick in such charges since 2006, when the figure stood at 16,548.

While increased awareness could in part explain the increase in charges, as could a baby boomer generation at or nearing retirement age, there's also this explanation:

"When the economy tanks, you definitely see age discrimination suits go up," Laurie McCann, a senior attorney with the AARP told AOL Jobs in 2011. The reasoning is simple, she said: As employers seek to cut back on costs, they often go after older workers first. But according to McCann, "in terms of benefits and insurance, it's a perception that seniors cost more."




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212 Comments

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Kimberly Chapman Har

Too bad the company has moved on so they do not have to pay the settlement. I would love to see who they replace Ms. Moreno with. If they think a young, hottie wants to work in a community of senior citizen's, they are wrong. She is going to be hard to replace and they will find that out the hard way if they ever need another employee of her caliber. Best of luck Ms. Moreno . . . what comes around goes around, and at some point in time everyone grows older.

July 25 2012 at 7:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dale7xchamp21801

I would tell you how I really feel, but, I'd probably get sued.

July 25 2012 at 6:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dale7xchamp21801's comment
lovetogutyou

If it's ugly then shut it.

July 25 2012 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mesager42

Really surprising considering how much Hawaiians like their senior citizens.

July 25 2012 at 5:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shroomwmn

The company owner referred to Moreno as "a bag of bones" who "sounds old on the phone"? And this company provides home health care for seniors???? Geez, would this employer tell their clients that THEY sound old and are "bags of bones"? What a putz!

July 25 2012 at 4:57 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
ed

Debra: From a man's point of view you don't look old or sound old and you certainly are not a "bag of bones". You are a good looking gal. Ms Carolyn Frutoz De-Harne, your former employer, needed "a taking down". Good for you.

P.S. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being or sounding old or being thin.

July 25 2012 at 4:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
James

Even if she gets the 200 grand, What is she susposed to do ? Live off the Intrest.? 1% Peanuts. Lawyer will take most of that. Hope she can find another job soon.

July 25 2012 at 4:31 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to James's comment
lstny7

eeoc is free they do not charge .

August 22 2012 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gina

I don't see a thing wrong with how she looks. She's actually a rather nice-looking lady. :) I'm proud of her for suing them and of the judge for seeing that this was indeed an undeniable case of discrimination. The company conveniently "closed up shop" so they can avoid paying her. I'll bet you that they will open back up within the next couple of months under a NEW name. Weasels!! But besides the money, it IS the principle of the matter. This is just as wrong as if they'd discriminated against someone for their skin color or religion or for being a member of the LGBT community. Congratulations on your victory, Ms. Moreno!!!! :)

July 25 2012 at 4:18 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
gmapatyshouse

to
Debra Moreno: I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOUR AWARD !! CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT YOU DID WELL ON YOUR JOB, YOU DESERVE THE $900,000.00 !! PEOPLE SHOULD BE MORE CONSIDERATE ABOUT THE OTHER PERSONS FEELINGS !! I AM 70 AND OVER WEIGHT, SO I DID TELEMARKETING FOR YEARS BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID NO ONE WOULD HIRE ME THE WAY I LOOKED. YOU ARE AN ATTRACTIVE WOMAN, AND JUST HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH !! YOU GO GIRL !!!

July 25 2012 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ironmikemiata

Good for HER I hope this happens more often as the average SLAVE gets justice against the Republican Slave Masters

July 25 2012 at 2:20 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Anthony

Looks like a sweet very attractive lady to me and I'm younger. The real hag in this case is the owner Cruella Deville!

July 25 2012 at 2:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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