Barbara Tavres, 59, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer Barnes & Noble in the in the US District Court in Northern California, alleging age discrimination, and seeking class action status. She was fired on September 6, 2019 after a career that began in 2006, starting in community relations and ending at a shop in Emeryville CA. Tavres claims that on the day of her termination her manager took part in a conference call where district manager Phil Alexander, who said, “We’re no longer hiring book people. Going forward, we’re only hiring sales people.” Tavres says “book people” means older workers and “sales people” is “code for younger workers.” She further alleges that
Barnes & Noble has used policies, practices, and procedures which have disproportionately affected employees age 40 and older. These include but are not limited to: setting sales goals for its CBDMs (Community Business Development Managers); arbitrarily increasing those sales goals nearly without exception year over year; denying CBDMs eligibility for commission pay by placing them on ‘improvement plans’ for not meeting sales goals; and finally firing CBDMs for not meeting those goals. These policies, practices, and procedures are not job-related for the position at issue, not consistent with business necessity, and not based on any other reasonable factor. These policies, practices, and procedures have disproportionately impacted employees age 40 and older.
As reported earlier, CEO James Daunt wants to put control “back in the hands of booksellers,” but the lawsuit says that
However much the financially-beleaguered company emphasized ‘bookseller’ empowerment, the tailoring of stores to meet the needs of their communities, and the battle against uniformity, its cost-saving strategy coincided with and depended on the ruthless and unscrupulous purging of its workers age 40 and older in violation of federal and California antidiscrimination laws… “Booksellers” is corporate-speak for Barnes & Noble’s entry-level employees, whose duties entail operating cash registers, restocking empty shelves, and cleaning restrooms.
Daunt spoke at the Futurebook conference in London in late November and said,
If you walk into any of the Barnes & Noble bookstores they are the most crucifyingly boring stores. Which is odd, because they know what people want, they have all this data and yet they can’t interpret it and they’ve been unable to manipulate that knowledge to in any way deliver decent bookstores to people…. I think the one thing that you can never be if you want to live in this new bookselling age of Amazon is boring…. We have to use our character and personality, the curation and the intellectual engagement that we have as booksellers with the titles that are published, an ability to seize the book that not many have noticed, to champion it, to spread it. If we can’t do that then we have no role and we’ll be destroyed.
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