Eli Lilly Strikes Deal with EEOC in Age Bias Suit

On June 26, 2023, an Eli Lilly subsidiary agreed to pay $2.4 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging the pharmaceutical company violated federal age bias laws after Eli Lilly announced that it planned to hire more millennial workers.

EEOC’s lawsuit challenged a program launched in 2017 by Steve Fry, the Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Diversity for Lilly USA, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly. He announced during a leadership town hall that because Lilly’s national workforce was skewed toward older workers, the company was implementing a plan to hire Millennials for sales representative positions. Following Fry’s announcement, Lilly managers changed their hiring practices to favor younger applicants and to require additional levels of review and approval for older applicants.

EEOC sued Lilly on behalf of a group of applicants aged 40 or above who were rejected from sales representative positions between 2017 and 2021. EEOC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleged that Lilly violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) by failing to hire older applicants for pharmaceutical sales representative positions based on their age. EEOC argued that Lilly “intentionally under-hired applicants protected by the ADEA” and continued to under-hire applicants even after “Lilly managers recognized that the . . . hiring goals constituted unlawful age discrimination.” Bertram LLP previously reported on the lawsuit here.

On Monday, Lilly and EEOC asked Indiana federal judge Tanya Walton Pratt to approve the $2.4 million deal. In a joint motion for approval, the parties stated: “In the interest of resolving this matter, to avoid further cost of litigation, and as a result of having engaged in comprehensive settlement negotiations, the parties have agreed that this action should be fully and finally resolved without any admission of fault or liability.”

If the settlement is approved, in addition to the financial settlement, Lilly would be required to review its EEO policies to ensure they comply with the ADEA. Those policies must prohibit age-based bias and provide applicants and employees with avenues to report misconduct that violates the company’s policies. The deal would also require Lilly to implement EEO training for all human resource employees involved in recruitment, and Lilly will be required to ensure that third-party recruiters comply with anti-age bias policies.