Ex-Chobani supervisor’s lawsuit claims age discrimination
TWIN FALLS — A former sleeving supervisor and maintenance supervisor is suing Chobani, claiming age discrimination.
Jerry Ash, who worked at the yogurt company from July 2012 until he was fired in June 2015, filed suit in federal court in Boise on Wednesday. In the complaint, Ash says his supervisors, who were younger, discriminated against him by denying him training they let younger employees take, denied him weekends off even though younger employees got them, “arbitrarily questioned the productivity and breaks of Mr. Ash’s work crews” and turned him down for a managerial position that instead went to “a younger, less experienced employee.”
Ash was placed on a “performance improvement plan” on June 18, 2015, and “counseled on how to work with younger managers and employees,” and fired a week later. Ash’s court filing says Chobani violated its own handbook in moving so quickly to fire him.
The filing also says Ash “witnessed discrimination and a hostile work environment” against a fellow older colleague who was a subordinate of his and fired on the same day, and he says Chobani fired eight other people over the age of 45 around the time Ash was let go. The complaint doesn’t specify Ash’s age but does say he was older than 50 at the time of his termination.
The lawsuit says Ash filed complaints last year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Idaho Human Rights Commission. Both of these were dismissed.
“We’re a company founded on inclusion and diversity and have built a rich history of promoting a welcoming culture that does not discriminate in any form and does not tolerate discrimination in any form,” Chobani said in a statement. “To protect the privacy of our teams, we do not comment on matters related to specific employees — current or former — but we take matters like this seriously. When this was first brought to our attention, we immediately conducted an investigation to ensure adherence to our policy, our standards and our founding beliefs. We found no discrimination and after review of the evidence, the Idaho Human Rights Commission dismissed the case.”
Ash’s lawyer Sam Johnson didn’t return a call for comment Friday. Human Rights Commission Administrator Linda Goodman said she couldn’t talk about the case, citing rules that exempt the commission from public records law.
Ash is seeking attorney’s fees and damages, including lost pay.