Thursday, August 02, 2001

Lawsuit says P&G trying to force out older workers

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A high-ranking attorney at Procter & Gamble Co. accused the company Wednesday of trying to cut costs by forcing out older employees.

        Gary Hagopian, a P&G employee for 26 years, claimed in a federal lawsuit that the company discriminates against him and many other longtime employees

        Mr. Hagopian, 51, seeks damages of more than $12 million. He claims he was demoted from his job as a vice president and general counsel because his bosses wanted to replace him with younger, cheaper employees.

        The Cincinnati man says age discrimination at the company became a serious problem after P&G announced this year that it would cut thousands of jobs to make the company more competitive and efficient.

        The lawsuit accuses the company of trying to force out older employees — regardless of their performance — while it recruits younger employees to replace them.

        “He's a whistleblower, in a sense,” said Mr. Hagopian's lawyer, Randy Freking. “He thinks it's bad for P&G. It's just bad business.”

        Company officials denied the allegations Wednesday, saying it treated Mr. Hagopian fairly. They say all eligible employees, regardless of age, were offered the same incentive packages to voluntarily leave the company.

        “P&G has been nationally recognized for its work on maintaining a discrimination-free environment,” said Jim Johnson, the company's chief legal officer. “We will vigorously defend our programs and practices.”

        According to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, Mr. Hagopian still has the title of vice president but has been stripped of his responsibilities and much of his pay.

        He claims he consistently received high marks from supervisors until the past year, when his bosses began to complain about his performance. The lawsuit claims those complaints were “trumped up,” and that supervisors expressed an “animus” toward older employees.

        The suit also says company officials kept job offers to law students open last year despite plans to cut lawyers from its work force.


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