Lawsuit accuses Lilly of favoring millennials over older job applicants

Eli Lilly and Co. refuses to interview and hire older workers, systematically favoring recent college graduates and other younger applicants, a new lawsuit alleges.

Two former job applicants, aged 55 and 49, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis on Wednesday, accusing the Indianapolis-based drug maker of age discrimination.

Lilly denied the allegations in a statement, saying it does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, protected veteran status, disability or any other legally protected status. The company declined to comment on details of the complaint.

The complaint was filed by Jerad Grimes, 49, of Florida, and Georgia Emily Edmundson, 55, of Georgia. Both say they applied for a sales representative job but were not hired.

The two say Lilly “disfavors” hiring sales representatives over the age of 40 and prefers to hire more youthful millennials.

“Eli Lilly views younger applicants as being more physically attractive than older applicants,” the complaint said. “Based on their younger appearance, Eli Lilly believes younger applicants are better suited to be employed in a sales representative role. Because sales representative roles are primarily client-facing roles whereby sales representatives regularly interact with physicians who prescribe Eli Lilly products to their patients, Eli Lilly prefers that sales representatives to have a youthful appearance.”

The complaint further states that Lilly CEO David Ricks publicly stated in a company-wide town hall meeting several years ago that he wanted to increase the percentage of millennial sales representatives to 40% of the overall sales force by 2020.

“Shortly after Mr. Ricks’ public statements and setting of this numeric hiring quota, Eli Lilly began engaging in a pattern and/or practice of refusing to interview or hire sales representatives who were over the age of 40, gave preferential hiring/interview status only to new graduates out of college, and created a group called “ECP” which stands for Early Career Professionals to cater to and support younger sales representatives,” the complaint said.

Lilly steadily increased the hiring quotas for younger workers in the Diabetes and Primary Care Business units to 60% and then 80%, the complaint said.

“Indeed, at one point, Eli Lilly’s director-level and officer-level employees set 100% ‘Millennial’ hiring quotas if the 60% or 80% hiring quotas were not being met, in order to increase the hiring of younger sales representatives across the United States,” the complaint said.

Grimes previously worked for Lilly as a sales representative from approximately 2008 until March of 2017. He was laid off during a company-wide restructuring, but was invited to reapply for sales representative positions as they became available.

Between 2017 and 2020, Grimes said he regularly applied for dozens of available sales representative positions in Eli Lilly’s Diabetes and Primary Care Business units. His employment applications were all rejected.

Edmondson is a pharmaceutical sales representative who has more than 20 years of experience at unspecified companies other than Lilly, the complaint said.

Between 2018 and 2020, she applied for available sales representative positions in Eli Lilly’s Diabetes and Primary Care Business units. Her employment applications were all rejected, the complaint said.

The two are suing under federal and state age discrimination laws, and are seeking class-action status. The suit was filed by law firm Morgan & Morgan of Lexington, Kentucky.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

11 thoughts on “Lawsuit accuses Lilly of favoring millennials over older job applicants

  1. Unless the numbers changed…. ~5 years ago the average lilly employee was over 50.

    They went on a 5/10 year plan to get the average age closer to 40.

    You do not lower your average age and create longevity by hiring the majority of people less than a decade from retirement…

    1. The numbers changed when they bought out a couple thousand employees in their 50s with early retirement offers in 2018.

  2. Not sure if there’s discrimination here but there’s certainly also an allegation of “beauty bias”… eg. “younger applicants as being more physically attractive than older applicants.” Although bias like this is definitely not good for business…. not sure it’s discrimination. Let the courts decide….

  3. They are talking about pharmaceutical sales reps and the entire industry has always been like that. Many years ago after trying to work with recruiters when I was 40 for a pharmaceutical sales rep position and after many months of never making contact a kind recruiter sat me down and told me the truth that I wasn’t young or good looking enough to get an interview for that type of job. In addition I have also experienced the same ageism in the IT sales industry. I’m not sure what they are trying to accomplish here since it is a hugely widespread problem with many industries. From my own experiences and personal observations sales reps in their 50’s can’t get interviews and eventually give up. It’s a sad state of affairs that’s wrong, but good luck proving it.

    1. Proving it? This should be able to go to court next week. Subpoena Lilly’s employment data for that job as well as the data from the applications for that job. I’m 100% confident they are guilty and 100% confident Lilly will buy their way out of it and walk with no issues.

  4. You walk into any medical office bldg and you see all the Barbie and Ken sales Reps. The women all look a like, high heels, short skirt and the top button may have got lost in the wash. The men are in there skinny dress pants, button down shirt and tie.
    Put them in a line up and they stand out.

  5. Chuck is accurate.

    This will settle out of court at best…or it will be dropped.

    “Equal opportunity employment” is about as cute you conform to the woke game plan.