The EEOC announced last week that it had filed a suit alleging the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records OOR) engaged in age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 when it failed to hire attorney Joseph Bednarik for a vacant appeals officer position in 2008.
The lawsuit follows on the heels of an earlier case filed by the EEOC against the City of Milpitas in California’s Silicon Valley, which allegedly discriminated on the basis of age when a panel of three city officials chose a candidate for the position of executive secretary to the city manager. The successful applicant, 39, was rated as less qualified than the individuals who were not selected, who were aged 42, 55, 56 and 58 years of age.
Both lawsuits were filed after the EEOC was unable to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the employers through its conciliation process.
In the latest case, the EEOC states in its complaint that Bednarik heard of the position through “word-of-mouth” and sent a letter of interest to an OOR hiring official. Bednarik, who graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School, had been practicing for about 30 years, including 17 years with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. During an interview with Terry Mutchler, the executive director of the OOR, and Barry Fox, OOR’s Deputy Director, Mutchler allegedly “expressed some concern that Bednarik would not have a long tenure with OOR because he had already worked for the Commonwealth for 17 years and might be nearing retirement.”The OOR selected a 40-year-old candidate who had significantly less experience than Bednarik for the position.
The EEOC is asking the court to order the OOR to pay Bednarik back wages, doubled in the form of liquidated damages, and to award prejudgment interest. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the OOR to either hire Bednarik or award him “front-pay.” Front pay may be awarded in lieu of reinstatement: (1) Where no position is available; (2) Where a subsequent working relationship between the parties would be antagonistic; or (3) Where the employer has a record of long-term resistance to discrimination efforts.
The case, EEOC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Office of Open Records, Civil Action No. 1-15-cv-01895-CCC), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Prior to these lawsuits, the EEOC has ignored the problem of age discrimination in hiring. Meanwhile, older workers for years have been disproportionately represented in the ranks of the long-term unemployed. And employers and employment agencies post job advertisements that obviously intend to exclude older workers, using code terms like “seeking digital natives” or “only recent graduates.”
Silicon Valley is a virtual apartheid state for younger workers.
A class action lawsuit filed against Google last summer alleges that Google’s workforce is “grossly disproportionate” with respect to age. The lawsuit asserts the median age of the 28,000 employees who worked for Google in 2013 was 29. The U.S. Department of Labor reports the median age for computer programmers in the United States is 42.8 and the median age for software developers is 40.6.