EEOC claims diversity plan discriminates? Get ready to write a big check.

Sometimes, employers are caught between conflicting workplace priorities. Such was recently the case for pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. In an effort to cultivate a more diverse workforce, it wound up discriminating against a protected class: older workers.

Recent case: At a leadership town hall meeting in 2017, Eli Lilly's vice president for HR and diversity noted that the company's workforce was largely composed of older workers. He announced the company had to develop fresh talent as baby boomers retired. The goal: 40% of new employees would be "early career" hires. Upper managers were directed to review the files of any older applicants before a job offer could be extended.

After the plan was implemented, the number of older applicants for sales rep positions plummeted. The EEOC launched an investigation and decided to file an Age Discrimination in...

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