Former Mattel Set Builder Sues Company For Age Discrimination

TORRANCE (CNS) – A 69-year-old longtime Mattel set and scenery builder is suing the El Segundo-based toy maker, alleging he was forced to resign in 2021 because he could no longer tolerate a work environment in which colleagues and supervisors chided him because of his age.

Bernard Grisez’s Torrance Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, discrimination and harassment due to age, failure to prevent harassment and discrimination, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Grisez seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A Mattel representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit brought May 24.

“Throughout Mr. Grisez’s employ, his Mattel co-workers and supervisors subjected him to a barrage of ageist taunts and harassment, repeatedly asking him when he would retire, commenting on his age, calling him `old man,’ saying he needed a walker to get around and posting hurtful images of him around the office,” the suit alleges.

Grisez “found himself in an overwhelmingly toxic and hostile work environment where he was routinely berated, mocked and ridiculed by his peers and supervisors because of his age,” according to the suit.

Grisez was directly employed by two staffing agencies, Team Music and Knowledge Services Inc., that placed him at Mattel from May 2004 until his discharge last October, the suit states. Knowledge Services is a co-defendant in the suit.

In May 2004, Grisez, then 51, began working at Mattel as a part-time set builder, but two years later, he and other set builders were required to work full time, the suit states.

Grisez managed Mattel’s set building for some of the biggest trade shows in the toy industry and had substantial responsibilities, including training newer, and often younger, employees, the suit states.

Despite Grisez’s “exemplary work history and unquestionable skills,” he was repeatedly passed over for promotional opportunities because of his age, the suit alleges. Mattel instead gave promotions to younger employees with less experience, some of whom the plaintiff had trained, according to the suit.

In 2018, one of Mr. Grisez’s co-workers photoshopped the plaintiff’s face onto the photo of veteran comedy actor Don Knotts with white hair who played an elderly subservient character in the television show “Three’s Company,” the suit states.

“This insulting and hurtful image was taped around public areas in the Mattel office,” the suit states.

When Grisez protested about age discrimination to Mattel’s human resources, the company substantiated his complaints, the suit states. But rather than take corrective action, Grisez was told he had to take less pay if he wanted to become a permanent employee, according to the suit.

“Plaintiff was constructively discharged because of his refusal to accept these working conditions,” the suit states.

Mattel hired two 20-year-old employees in November to replace Grisez, the suit states.

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