Patricia Darragh’s 19-year tenure with BT Americas group was distinguished by winning several multi-million-dollar contracts and leading her peers in profits and earnings. But according to an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the 58-year-old woman, her position within the company was jeopardized and eventually terminated when the company hired a new Director of Health and Life Sciences who prioritized appearance and youth over performance and experience. She has filed a lawsuit under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, accusing the company and several of its employees of age discrimination, disability discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment.

According to the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey and subsequently removed to District Court, Ms. Darragh was “routinely berated, mocked, and ridiculed because of her age” for the first time during her tenure shortly after the arrival of Nadja Risse. Ms. Risse explicitly voiced her preference for “younger and sexy people” in the company and pointed to her own clothing – including short skirts – as a model for female employees. The lawsuit indicates that her emphasis on appearance was limited to the women in the workforce, who she also instructed in the application of makeup and use of lighting to make them look younger on Zoom calls.

Beyond the discriminatory aspects of Ms. Risse’s words, Ms. Darragh indicates that age discriminatory actions were taken towards her ability to perform her work, with prestigious accounts removed from her and given to inexperienced younger employees at a higher rate of pay than she had been provided. Eventually she was inadvertently sent an internal document indicating that she would be stripped of all of her accounts.

Despite BT Americas having an explicit age discrimination policy and procedure in place, when Ms. Darragh went to Human Resources for assistance in resolving her predicament her complaint was closed with no action having been taken. She was subsequently terminated, with the action being justified by an elimination of her position, but two younger males were quickly hired after her firing. Ms. Risse belittled her concerns about her termination, indicating that other companies would be interested in hiring her as part of a diversity and inclusion effort, indicating that her value to another employer would be as proof that they hired older workers rather than for her talents or experience.  The company later offered an alternative justification for Ms. Darragh’s termination that was based on her performance, which she believes is easily disproven by her generation of over $11 million in sales in fiscal year 2020-2021, an amount greater than that of five other salespeople combined.

Ms. Darragh’s claim against BT Americas, their parent company, and several employees cites discrimination and wrongful termination based on her age and gender in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. It also accuses the company of retaliatory actions against her in violation of NJLAD. She is seeking reinstatement of her employment and all benefits, back pay, compensatory and consequential damages, punitive damages, and more. If you believe you have been similarly discriminated against, our experienced employment discrimination attorneys can help. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss your situation and the options available to you.