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Minnesota Department of Human Rights Reaches Settlement after Finding Employer Fired Employee Because of Her Age

Settlement requires Natural Dental to create anti-discrimination policies, provide bias training, and pay former employee $54,000

[St. Paul, MN] The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) today announced a settlement agreement with Natural Dental, a dental practice located in St. Paul, after the employer violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act by discriminating against Kathleen Dahlstrom because of her age. 

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

"MDHR's findings reaffirm that I was a victim of age discrimination," said Kathleen Dahlstrom. "I am glad that I valued myself and spoke up. This settlement will help me truly begin the healing process." 

The Case 

In June 2018, Dahlstrom was unlawfully terminated from her position as the business manager at Natural Dental because of age discrimination. 

MDHR found the owner of Natural Dental made demeaning age-related comments about Dahlstrom. The owner said he “couldn’t work with Kathleen – she’s too old” and that she was “too old to learn new things.” 

The owner, who purchased the dental practice in May 2018, claimed he fired Dahlstrom because of performance shortcomings, even though he gave Dahlstrom a favorable performance evaluation just days before firing her. Dahlstrom capably performed her job duties since 1999. Less than a week after the owner fired Dahlstrom, he hired a new business manager who was more than 30 years younger.

In November 2020, MDHR found probable cause that Natural Dental violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Under the state’s civil rights law, employers cannot discriminate against an employee because of their age. 

Terms of the Settlement 

To address and prevent future age discrimination, the settlement requires Natural Dental to:  

  • Create and implement anti-discrimination policies.
  • Require all employees to read and sign an acknowledgment of the new policies.
  • Require its owner to attend anti-discrimination and bias training. 
  • Provide all employees with anti-discrimination and bias training. 

The settlement also requires Natural Dental to pay Dahlstrom $54,000 for lost wages and damages.  

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the state's civil rights enforcement agency. If you experienced or witnessed discrimination or bias call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or submit this online form.

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