Lawsuit claims Eli Lilly favors millennials for sales jobs

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Eli Lilly logo on one of the company's offices in San Diego, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • Drugmaker recruits on college campuses and through internship program
  • Named plaintiffs passed over in favor of younger applicants
  • Lawsuit proposes nationwide collective

Eli Lilly and Co was accused in a proposed class action filed on Wednesday of systematically refusing to interview and hire older workers for sales representative jobs, opting instead to target millennials and recent college graduates.

Two one-time Eli Lilly job applicants filed a complaint in Indianapolis federal court claiming the drugmaker only advertises sales rep positions through on-campus recruitment programs, and typically fills the jobs with younger workers who were initially hired as interns.

The plaintiffs said Eli Lilly has violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and comparable Florida and Georgia laws, and proposed a nationwide collective of workers 40 and older who unsuccessfully applied for sales rep jobs with the company or were deterred from doing so.

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Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly in a statement provided by a spokeswoman denied the plaintiffs' allegations and said the company does not discriminate on any basis.

"We are committed to fostering and promoting a culture of diversity and respect," the company said.

John Morgan and Gregory Schmitz of Morgan & Morgan, who represent the named plaintiffs, said in a statement that Eli Lilly managers were allegedly told "to not even bother" submitting candidates older than 30.

"Through this lawsuit we will fight to help everyone affected hold Eli Lilly accountable for their alleged discriminatory policies and end these alleged unjust and illegal practices," they said.

The plaintiffs in Wednesday's complaint claim that Eli Lilly in 2017 instituted hiring quotas aimed at bringing on millennials and "early career professionals," and began excluding qualified older applicants from job opportunities.

Managers were required to seek approval from regional or national leadership to hire older workers, and were evaluated in part on whether they met hiring quotas, according to the complaint.

The named plaintiffs, 49-year-old Jerad Grimes and Georgia Edmondson, who is 55, said they had applied for multiple jobs as sales representatives in Eli Lilly's diabetes and primary care business units. Despite being qualified and landing interviews at least once, each of them were passed over in favor of younger applicants, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs are seeking back pay, front pay, liquidated and punitive damages, and damages for lost benefits and emotional distress, along with injunctive relief barring Eli Lilly from engaging in age discrimination.

The case is Grimes v. Eli Lilly and Co, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, No. 1:21-cv-02367.

For the plaintiffs: Corey Asay and Gregory Schmitz of Morgan & Morgan

For Eli Lilly: Not available

(Note: This article has been updated to add a statement from Eli Lilly.)

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at