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Insurance agent's lawsuit sheds light on age discrimination

A former agent for insurance giant Allstate has filed suit against his former employer, arguing that it violated Minnesota law when it fired him for not fulfilling a life insurance quota. The Minnesota Department of Commerce has already fined the company in relation to the man's firing.

The agent worked for Allstate for 39 years, but lost his job after the company instituted a new quota system in 2006, requiring agents to sell set numbers of insurance policies. Reportedly, the number of agents working for the company in Minnesota has declined in the past several years since the policy went into effect, dropping from 158 to 84. Nationwide, the number of agents has declined by nearly 30 percent since 2007. Many of these workers have been replaced by younger, less-experienced agents, which raises questions about age discrimination.

After the man was fired, the Minnesota Department of Commerce investigated his termination and those of other agents and found that the company had violated worker protection laws. The company agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to the state over the matter.

Both the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. These laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on age when it comes to hiring, firing, promotions, benefits or task assignments.

Even so, wrongful discharge due to age discrimination is shockingly common, and sometimes blatant. Workers may encounter forced retirement soon before they can begin collecting a pension. Experienced workers are quite often forced out in favor of lower-paid, less-experienced workers as managers seek quick fixes to the bottom line. Minnesota workers who have been treated unfairly, or who suspect wrongful termination, should get help understanding their legal rights and compensation options when employers violate these laws.

Source: Insurance Networking News, "Allstate faces suit for wrongful termination of agents," Chris McMahon, July 18, 2013

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