Express Scripts’ Tech Proficiency Mandate Called Age Bias

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By Jon Steingart

Nov. 25 — Data entry technicians in Pennsylvania say they were targeted for age discrimination when Express Scripts rolled out new computer software and fired anyone who didn’t become “100%” proficient ( Dunovich v. Express Scripts Svcs. Co. , E.D. Pa., No. 2:16-cv-06159, complaint filed 11/23/16 ).

Three former employees sued the company Nov. 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. They ranged in age from 56 to 60 when they were fired in 2014 and 2015.

The association between younger people and newer technology is pervasive. “Younger people are just smarter,” Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told a Stanford University audience in 2007 as his social networking company was expanding rapidly. The median age of Facebook employees is 29, Bloomberg Businessweek reported in September. The country’s median age is 37.9, government data show.

Statistics reported by Bloomberg show that 226 age discrimination complaints were filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against Silicon Valley’s 150 biggest tech companies between 2008 and 2015. That’s 28 percent more than the number of DFEH complaints filed against those companies during the same period claiming race discrimination and 9 percent more than those alleging sex bias.

‘Flawless’ Performance Required

Express Scripts adopted the new software around the time it hired a large group of younger data entry technicians, the complaint alleges. Everyone was required to maintain a “100% efficiency rating” that called for “flawless” performance.

The efficiency requirement was a pretext to get rid of older workers, according to the fired technicians. Other technicians not party to the lawsuit also were fired and were all replaced by younger workers, they said.

“We deny the allegations and will vigorously defend ourselves,” Brian Henry, Express Scripts vice president, corporate communications, told Bloomberg BNA in a Nov. 25 e-mail. Attorneys for the technicians didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The technicians are represented by Sidney Gold and Brian Farrell of Sidney L. Gold & Associates P.C. in Philadelphia. An attorney hasn’t entered an appearance for Express Scripts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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