The former head of Walt Disney Pictures’s story department sued his former employer, charging that he was a victim of ageism.
Kevin Brady, who was making $135,000 a year at Disney until being laid off and replaced with a younger person after a 22 year long career, filed his suit in L.A. Superior Court this week, saying that Disney has “a history and pattern of terminating long term employees and replacing them with younger employees who have less experience at the company.”
After being let go in April 2013, Brady decided to write Alan Horn, the chairmen of Walt Disney Studios, a letter that laid out all of his accomplishments and all of the things that he’d contributed to the company. In the missive, Brady explained that he was hired as a temp in 1987, hired full time a year later, was promoted several times, earned excellent performance reviews consistently, until he eventually became the head of the story department in 2005.
Horn’s reply told Brady that he was “impressed” with the veteran’s “progression and dedication to the company,” but wasn’t willing to hear him out about reinstatement.
Michael Sean Bailey, president of motion pictures, told Brady that he was eliminating his position because the company was going to be making fewer movies. This, according to Brady, was false. He tried to reapply to the job when he saw that it’d become available online, but was told by HR personnel that the position had been filled.
It turned out that it was Bailey’s assistant, a woman in her late 20s or early 30s, who had replaced him as the head of the story department.
Brady was not the only veteran employee to be let go. Seven months after his departure, a 69 year old analyst in the story department had also been dismissed.
The case is a high profile example of an ongoing problem in the American workforce. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the amount of age discrimination claims have been increasing since 1997 when 15,785 reports were filed. Last year, there were 21,396 recorded claims. One possible reason could be the aging population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in five workers is above the age of 55.
Then again, another reason could be that back in 2009, the The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was weakened when a Supreme Court ruling made it even more difficult for workers to prove their cases. Previously, rulings were based off of a number of factors, but the court ruled that the burden of proof would from then on be on the worker to show that age had been the deciding factor in their termination.
Brady filed an age discrimination complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which was the agency then closed, telling him that he also had the right to file a lawsuit.
Brady’s suit seeks punitive damages, having suffered distress, discomfort, emotional pain, and because he claims Disney acted maliciously and fraudulently toward him.