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Employment Law News As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law news for employees.

EEOC Claims Whistleblower Was Fired For Illuminating Age Discrimination In Hiring

Age Discrimination - type of discrimination - word cloud.

Having fought abusive employment practices for almost twenty years, our Alachua County, Florida wrongful discharge lawyers know that older employees continue to face systemic discrimination in their efforts to obtain employment.  In the many cases, older workers who are not hired because of their age do not have access to evidence to even identify, let alone prove, a discriminatory failure to hire claim.  Simply stated, employers either give job applicants no reason or an intentionally vague reason for their decision.  Moreover, as explained by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Chambers v. TRM Copy Centers Corp., 43 F.3d 29 (2d Cir. 1994), “an employer who discriminates is unlikely to leave a ‘smoking gun’ attesting to discriminatory intent.”  Although, as observed by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States Postal Service Bd. of Gov. v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711 (1983), “[t]here will seldom be ‘eyewitness’ testimony as to the employer’s mental process,” sometimes a whistleblower provides such “eyewitness” testimony reflecting an employer’s discriminatory failure to hire older workers.

Employee Reports Age Discrimination In Hiring

In a press release issued on September 6, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a retaliation lawsuit against the University of Kansas (KU).  On September 6, 2019, the EEOC filed the retaliation lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. University of Kansas, Case No. 2:19-cv-2540, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. 

The EEOC has brought the retaliation lawsuit on behalf of a former employee of KU, Jeffrey Thomas (Thomas), pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).  The ADEA forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of age and protects employees from retaliation when they complain about perceived age discrimination in the workplace.  The EEOC claims that KU violated the ADEA by firing Thomas in retaliation for complaining about age discrimination in hiring.  In this article, our Alachua County, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys explain the EEOC’s allegations against KU. 

EEOC’s Allegations Of Retaliatory Discharge

In 2004, Thomas began working at KU as Assistant Director of Customer Service in the Information Resources Department (IR Department).  In October 2013, Thomas was promoted to Associate Director of Customer Service.  In this position, Thomas was supervised by a man named Harmelink.  In 2014, according to the EEOC, Harmelink made statements to employees in the IR Department indicating that they should hire millennials and other younger individuals to fill vacant positions.  In September 2014, an IR Department hiring manager told Thomas that she was not allowed to hire an older job applicant because of the applicant’s age.

On September 15, 2014, Thomas lodged a complaint of age discrimination with the Vice Chancellor of Administration, Webb.  Thomas told Webb that he believed the IR Department was engaging in a pattern and practice of age discrimination in hiring.  Webb informed Thomas that she would speak with Harmelink about the matter.  Because no action was taken in response to his complaint, Thomas sent a follow-up email on October 7, 2014 to Webb about his age discrimination complaint.  Webb told Thomas to report the complaint to Human Resources.

On October 13, 2014, Thomas made a complaint about age discrimination in hiring with KU’s EEO Officer, Holick.  Thomas’ EEO complaint was referred to KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) for investigation because Holick reported to Harmelink.  On October 16, 2014, the IOA commenced its investigation of Thomas’ complaint of age discrimination in hiring.  On October 22, 2014, Harmelink sent an email to employees in the IR Department announcing a reorganization of the IR Department. The email stated that Thomas’ role in the IR Department would not change.  However, one week later, Harmelink told Thomas that his position was being eliminated, he was terminated, and the decision was unrelated to his job performance.  Harmelink terminated Thomas, according to the EEOC, without obtaining the required approval from Webb.

EEOC Helps Employees Survive Retaliatory Firing

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  In enforcing the federal civil rights laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  In a press release issued by the EEOC on September 6, 2019 regarding the case, a Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, Andrea G. Baran, explained that “[h]iring discrimination is one of the most difficult types of employment discrimination to identify because applicants almost never know the reason they were not selected for a job.”  “Individuals like Mr. Thomas,” Ms. Baran added, “should be commended—and protected from retaliation—for standing up against discriminatory hiring practices.”

Consult With Gainesville Wrongful Discharge Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida wrongful discharge lawyers have represented employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC.  If you have been wrongfully fired or have questions about your protection against retaliation under employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Alachua County, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys.  Our employment law attorneys take wrongful termination cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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