78-Year-Old Receptionist Was an Employee of the Year Before Getting Fired. Now Ex-Employer Is Paying Her $78K

In February 2022, Shirley Noble was fired from her receptionist job at a retirement community in Georgia

<p>Covenant Woods, A Senior Living Community/Facebook</p> Covenant Wood, a senior living community in Columbus Georgia

Covenant Woods, A Senior Living Community/Facebook

Covenant Wood, a senior living community in Columbus Georgia
  • Shirley Noble, who was fired from her receptionist job at age 78 in 2022, will receive $78,000 from her former employer as part of an age and disability discrimination lawsuit settlement

  • The Georgia woman was fired in February 2022 after a brief hospitalization and replaced "replaced by substantially younger employees, according to court documents

  • In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, BrightSpace Chief Financial Officer Brian Hendricks said the case was resolved "due to the cost of litigating it" but did not admit to any "wrongdoing or discriminatory conduct"

A Georgia woman is set to receive $78,000 after filing an age and disability discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, claiming that she was illegally fired two years ago.

In February 2022, Shirley Noble was fired from her receptionist job at the Covenant Woods Retirement Community in Columbus, according to a lawsuit filed in a district court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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," according to a press release from the EEOC's Atlanta District Office.

The termination came following a brief hospitalization. After she returned to work, "despite having never previously raised substantial performance concerns to the receptionist," she was allegedly told the company "had lost confidence in her ability to work." The next day, she was fired and "replaced by substantially younger employees."

The EEOC announced on Tuesday, April 30, that both Covenant Woods and BrightSpace Senior Living “will pay $78,000 to settle” the lawsuit with Noble.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, BrightSpace Chief Financial Officer Brian Hendricks said that Covenant Woods and BrightSpace Senior Living resolved the case "due to the cost of litigating it," but that they "do not admit wrongdoing or discriminatory conduct as part of this resolution."

"Covenant Woods and BrightSpace Senior Living remain committed to compliance with all discrimination and labor and employment laws," Hendricks added.

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Noble, who had worked for the retirement community since 2007 and was even named an employee of the year for 2021, lost her job just a month after receiving the honor, despite receiving “favorable reviews throughout her employment," according to the complaint.

On Feb. 10, 2022, Noble was hospitalized after experiencing a high-blood pressure-related incident at work, which she later claimed was due to dehydration, according to the complaint. She was released about two days later.  

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Days later, Noble visited Covenant Woods “to let residents and colleagues know that she was feeling better and would be returning to work, as scheduled."

But when she arrived for work, “a newly hired employee nearly 30 years her junior was performing receptionist duties” at her desk, per the lawsuit.

Moments later, she was allegedly instructed to visit with the general and office managers, who then told her they had lost confidence in her abilities.

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During the February meeting, the general manager offered Noble 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.

The next day, Noble and the managers met again. Attorneys alleged 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.”

Instead, she was allegedly told the offer of working as a receptionist was no longer an option, per the documents. Noble went on to decline the other options provided to her. A termination letter was sent out the following day.

In a June 3 letter to Noble, managers said the Feb. 10 event created a “safety concern” that prompted them “to make the difficult change," per the complaint.

Attorneys claimed two people who were decades younger than Noble were then tasked with filling the role completed by Noble alone.

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“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, in a news release announcing the settlement payment.

Keegan added, "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.”

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