Ageism accusations in Ontario supermarket dispute

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It’s an issue Canada may face more often as the population ages and older workers stay in the workforce longer – accusations of ageism are flying in London, Ontario.

Seven women, aged 62 to 78, say they were let go from their jobs as product demonstrators to make way for a younger cohort. The group has filed a human rights complaint against Metro stores and InStore Focus, Canada’s biggest product demonstration company.

The “brand ambassadors” worked up to 28 hours a week until the middle of last year when one by one they had their hours cut to zero – while InStore advertised for 12 new brand ambassadors.

Emails to some of the women indicate there was a change in direction to find women who represented the “target market” such as mothers; however, it’s not clear whether that directive came from Metro or InStore.

They are seeking $25,000 each in damages for “insult to dignity” and a combined $38,000 in lost wages. Ageism claims make up just 3% of the complaints seen by the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, which is representing the women.

“If nothing else, it should open the eyes of employers,” complainant Lone Thompson, 65, who worked for InStore for 15 years, said. “We all did a good job and we did it with conviction and all of a sudden, because we hit a certain age, that’s it… We don’t need you anymore.”

Legal counsel Beth Walden said it could be difficult to prove age discrimination, but there was ample evidence in this case.


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