Business manager

Dental practice fired its business manager for being too old, human rights inquiry finds

A dental practice has agreed to pay a former employee $54,000 as part of a settlement after firing her because of her age.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced that it had reached a settlement with Natural Dental, of St. Paul, after it was found guilty of violating Minnesota human rights law by firing Kathleen Dahlstrom.

According to a department statement, Dahlstrom was the subject of “degrading age-related comments” from the firm’s owner, who said he “couldn’t work with Kathleen – she’s too old” and that she was “too old to learn new things.”

The owner, who bought the firm in May 2018, had claimed he fired Dahlstrom due to poor performance, but was found to have given her a favorable performance review just days before firing her.

“Dahlstrom has competently discharged her duties since 1999,” the Human Rights Department said. “Less than a week after the owner fired Dahlstrom, he hired a new business manager who was over 30 years younger.”

The department said it found probable cause last November that Natural Dental violated human rights law because of age discrimination.

Along with agreeing to pay Dahlstrom $54,000, Natural Dental must also create anti-discrimination policies and provide bias training.

“Ageism has no place in Minnesota workplaces,” said Rebecca Lucero, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. “This regulation sends a clear message that age discrimination violates state civil rights law. If we are to create inclusive workplaces, we must be intentional so that our biases, our actions, our our policies and practices do not perpetuate ageism or cause further harm.”