Ameriprise Hit with Age Discrimination Suit in Michigan
(Adds comment from Ameriprise spokeswoman in seventh paragraph.)
A 63-year-old broker near Detroit has filed a federal lawsuit claiming age and civil rights discrimination after he was fired in December 2016 after 16 years with Ameriprise Financial Services.
Craig Peltier, who worked in the firm’s Macomb County, Michigan, branch that was shuttered two months ago, alleges in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Michigan that Ameriprise retaliated against him for taking three months of family medical leave to recuperate from ankle surgery and for reporting high radon levels in the office to authorities.
When he returned to work in the summer of 2016 after another three months of working from his home, he was put on probation with instructions to bring his trailing 12-month production up to around $100,000 within months but was hindered by having his sales assistant taken away from him and having some customer accounts transferred to younger employees who were also on probation, he said.
In an interview that elaborated on his lawsuit filed late Friday, he also said that the air conditioning in his work area was set to an unacceptably high level. It was “an environment that no reasonable person can work in,” his complaint says.
His former supervisor also suggested that he “take a good hard look at our retirement plan” at a time when he was working hard to get off probation, he said in the interview.
“The new standards were not a problem for me, and I know that management was under the gun to do something about lower producers” in light of the new Department of Labor fiduciary rule, said Peltier, who was 62 at the time he was fired a few days before Christmas.
But he said his dismissal came as he was about two-thirds of the way to hitting his production targets.
Ameriprise spokeswoman Kathleen McClung said in an email Monday afternoon that the firm had not yet reviewed Peltier’s lawsuit but added: “We stand fully behind our inclusive culture and employment practices.”
Peltier, who is seeking $300,000 in damages and relief, described himself as an “old-fashioned stockbroker” who gives investment tips and specific planning advice to generally baby-boomer-age customers rather than the fee-based advisory plans Ameriprise prefers.
Ameriprise reported to Michigan unemployment authorities that he was dismissed for “misconduct,” though he said that was never explained to him. His BrokerCheck record reports two settled financial complaints with banks from 2014 regarding real estate he owned and one 2013 customer complaint that was dismissed, but has no record of a “separation” from the firm.
While age discrimination suits, as opposed to those alleging gender discrimination, remain relatively rare in the brokerage industry, they could increase because of the aging of the brokerage force. The average age of financial advisors is 51, according to a Cerulli Associates study published in December, and other consultants say that may understate the average.
Earlier this year a 76-year-old Merrill Lynch broker in Beverly Hills filed a discrimination suit against the firm seeking at least $5 million in damages in federal court in Los Angeles. The broker, Marshall Sale, was fired in August 2016 after 49 years with Merrill. The case is pending.