If you drive north of Milwaukee for a couple of hours, you will arrive in scenic Merrill, sitting along the Wisconsin River. According to its website, the city of nearly 10,000 residents takes pride in its municipal government that is “open, responsible, and transparent to the public.”
The city manager responsible for leading that government isn’t so sure the town’s boast is accurate. Sixty-seven-year-old Dave Johnson recently sent a letter to Merrill’s mayor that reportedly threatens the town with an age discrimination lawsuit if it fires him.
According to a recent news report, Merrill’s common council plans to discuss the elimination of the city manager position during future budget meetings. A plan has been floated by Mayor Derek Woellner that would eliminate the city manager position, while apparently shifting some or all of Johnson’s duties to Woellner.
The part-time mayor would then become full-time. Woellner says the realignment would save the city $115,000 by eliminating Johnson’s position. There is no mention in the news article about a pay raise in the plan for a full-time mayor.
In the letter from Johnson’s employment law attorney to the mayor, it is alleged that Woellner wants to eliminate Johnson’s job because of the city manager’s age. It is also claimed that the mayor “made multiple age discriminatory remarks about Johnson” at a July 2018 meeting in which Woellner asked for the administrator’s resignation.
It should be noted that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age discrimination against anyone who is age 40 or older. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says “the law prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”
Those who have suffered age discrimination in a Milwaukee area workplace can contact the law office of Alan C. Olson and Associates to discuss legal options that will protect their rights.