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Called ‘fat and old,’ ex-employee sues Grow Financial for age, national origin discrimination

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Grow Financial is being accused of discrimination after letting go a 15-year employee.

Maria Brennan, 56, worked as a teller for Grow from 2000 to February 2015. During her time with the company, Brennan was promoted to “Training Specialist/Corporate Developer.”

In the lawsuit, filed Oct. 18, 2016, Brennan accuses Grow Financial of two counts of age discrimination, two counts of national origin discrimination and three counts of retaliation.

Brennan’s manager, Jennifer Newlin, 35, made discriminatory remarks to Brennan or in her presence. The suit claims Newlin made comments like, “If you want to stay fat and old, go ahead,” and called Brennan an old lady on multiple occasions. Newlin also attacked her Cuban heritage. When Brennan made it clear that she was offended by the “jokes,” nothing was done.

Brennan claims the harassment took place from March 2014 to the date of her termination. She was “retaliated against for participating in protected activity,” the protected activity was not disclosed in the suit.

At a charity event in Ybor City, Newlin allegedly slapped Brennan across her face. The incident was reported to the vice president of the department. Still, nothing was done to reprimand or investigate Newlin’s actions.

Newlin’s alleged harassment created a hostile work environment for Brennan. Although Grow Financial was made aware of the situation, they did not take any corrective actions.

On July 22, 2015, Brennan filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She was notified of her right to sue on Sept. 6, 2016. However, the EEOC could not prove the discrimination charges.

Brennan is requesting compensation for damages, including back pay and benefits, front pay and benefits, and costs and attorney’s’ fees.

According to the suit, Brennan was replaced by a young male in his 20s. In the Charge of Discrimination form, Brennan stated that several other older employees had also been discharged.

Brennan also claimed that a day before she was notified of her termination, she received several calls from her colleagues. They claimed they knew of her termination and that there was a rumor she had acted violently. The rumor spread to multiple branches and reached people higher up in the food chain, negatively affecting her reputation and causing her to become subject to “ridicule, distrust and disgrace.”

The Grow Financial branch in question is on Delaney Lake Drive in Tampa.

Newlin owns a personal-training business. It is unclear whether she attempted to get Brennan to become a client, which could explain the allegations.

In the Charge of Discrimination form filled out by Brennan, she claims she was praised for her “leadership, hard work and loyalty.”

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