When Bobby Nickel was fired from Staples, he claimed it was because of age discrimination

When Bobby Nickel was fired from Staples, he claimed it was because of age discrimination, but Staples claims it was due to Nickel’s violation of the company’s zero-tolerance policy.

When Bobby Nickel was fired from Staples, he claimed it was because of age discrimination

64-Year-Old Male Sues Staples for Wrongful Termination and Age Discrimination”
When Bobby Nickel was fired from Staples, he claimed it was because of age discrimination, but Staples claims it was due to Nickel’s violation of the company’s zero-tolerance policy. This activity is important because it examines the sensitive issue of diversity and whether firms manage such issues effectively.

The goal of this exercise is to encourage you to look at whether firms are truly encouraging workplace diversity across all levels—from gender to race to age.

Read the case about the 66-year-old Bobby Nickel. He claims he was fired from his job at Staples because of his age. Then, using the 3-step problem-solving approach, answer the questions that follow.

Bobby Nickel, a 66-year-old facilities manager for Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc., and Staples, Inc., was fired. He claims the company discriminated against and harassed him and ultimately terminated him due to his age.

From 2002 to 2008 Nickel worked for Corporate Express, which Staples then acquired.

He received positive performance evaluations for nine years before his termination.

“Because Corporate Express’ pay scale had been higher than the pay scale for employees hired by Staples, Nickel alleged in his complaint that his managers noted that they needed to ‘get rid of’ older, higher paid employees. Nickel’s complaint also explained how he became the regular butt of jokes at staff meetings and was referred to as ‘old coot’ and ‘old goat,” according to blogger Larry Bodine.1

Further, Nickel claimed that Lionel Marrero, his fulfillment center manager, regularly made harassing statements like, “Take a closer look at the older people. They are starting to drag and are slowing down. If they are not top performers, write them up and get rid of them.”.   It was also alleged that Marrero said, “We need young, energetic people. Walk around the facility with the older workers and if they cannot keep up, then get rid of them.… We need to get rid of old people because they are slow. And we can get younger people to work cheaper.”2

Nickel was ultimately pressed by a manager to resign. When he didn’t, he experienced increased incidents of harassment from coworkers and a manager. “This included being written up and suspended for ‘stealing,’ after taking a bell pepper valued at 68 cents from the company cafeteria.” A receptionist told Nickel she had been instructed by management “to provide a false statement about Nickel’s conduct but she refused to do so,” said blogger Larry Bodine.3

Counsel for Staples contended that the company had cause to suspend Nickel because he violated “the company’s zero-tolerance policy when it came to ‘dishonesty of any kind, including theft or misappropriation of company property.’”4

Apply the 3-Step Problem-Solving Approach

Step 1: Define the problem in this case.

Step 2: Identify the OB concepts or theories that may be causing the problem. For example, are stereotypes, diversity climate, or frameworks for managing diversity causes of the problem?

Step 3: Recommend what you would do to correct the situation. Think both short term and long term.

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