Judge Tosses Ex-Edward Jones Client Associate’s Discrimination Suit
(Updated with comment from Colombo’s lawyer.)
Edward D. Jones & Co. has prevailed in its bid to have a court dismiss an age discrimination and retaliation claim filed by a former branch office administrator.
Charlin J. Colombo alleged in her April 2020 discrimination claim that her resignation from the key branch post two years ago was equivalent to being fired—a constructive discharge—because of the abuse she received from the broker running a St. Louis office. She was 74 when she argued to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions that she was being forced to leave Jones.
U.S. Judge Jean C. Hamilton ruled Thursday that Columbo was not eligible to bring the claim because she had not resigned but was instead on short-term disability, “a status compatible only with continued employment,” according to the decision filed in the Eastern District of Missouri. Colombo failed to “exhaust her administrative remedies” as required under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the judge ruled.
A spokesman for Jones, which has approximately 16,600 BOAs and 19,000 brokers, said the St. Louis-based firm welcomed the decision.
“It is important to reaffirm that Edward Jones is a place of belonging,” the spokesman said.
Colombo’s lawyer, David M. Heimos, said they they will not be appealing the ruling or otherwise continue to press their claims.
Edward Jones recently restored pay raises for certain employees, including BOAs, that had been suspended in March as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
Unlike numerous racial and sexual discrimination cases that have been successfully prosecuted against brokerage firms, age discrimination has proven more difficult for employees. However, lawsuits with the charge have been increasing as the average age of the U.S. brokerage force has risen.
A 72-year-old former Morgan Stanley broker in Los Angeles who said he was relegated to a junior role on his team after an illness filed a suit in April last year that is pending. A 69-year-old Wells Fargo Advisors broker who worked for 34 years at the firm filed an age and gender discrimination suit against Wells, claiming that her manager failed to allocate her accounts that went to younger colleagues. The case is now in mediation.
Colombo resigned the same day that Jones suspended her in June 2018, after she had worked at the firm almost five years with the firm, according to her lawsuit. She asserted that advisor Pamela Diemert yelled in her face, questioned her decisions and told at least two associates that she wished Colombo would be subject to the 65 mandatory retirement age as are Jones partners, it said.
Colombo also alleged that Jones put her on warning and gave her harsh performance reviews after reporting Diemert, whom she worked with for three months, to human resources.
Jones is currently defending itself against a purported class-action lawsuit in Chicago alleging policies and practices that deprive African-Americans of advancement opportunities that begin during training and extend through office and teaming assignments and account inheritance programs.
“[Jones Financial Companies] and Edward Jones deny the allegations in the remaining counts and intend to vigorously defend against the allegations in this lawsuit,” the company said in its most recent 10-Q regulatory filing.