Articles Posted in ADEA

As you may know from past posts, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces five federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination against applicants for federal employment, current federal employees, or former federal employees: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin); the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (prohibiting agencies from paying different wages to men and women performing equal work in the same work place); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended (prohibiting discrimination against persons age 40 or older); Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability); and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (prohibiting discrimination based on genetic information).

But what if the individual discriminating against a federal employee is the head of the agency or division wielding vast influence not only in the employee’s division but the entire agency? What if the alleged discrimination is inflicted by the head of the EEO office? Federal employees may fear that the EEO office is not investigating thoroughly such claims of discrimination and/or is predisposed not to find that any discriminatory conduct occurred.
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The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of age. To prevail on an ADEA claim, it is not enough to show that a supervisor was biased against older employees. A successful plaintiff needs to show that she suffered an unfavorable employment action that she would not have suffered but for age discrimination. All illustrated by the recent case of Lavina D. Jernagin v. John M. McHugh, even if a supervisor refers to an employee as an “old-timer” and a “dinosaur,” if age was not the “but for” cause of an unfavorable employment action, the plaintiff will be unable to recover.

Lavina Jernagin began civilian employment with the United States Army in 1997, working as a Logistics Management Specialist with the Army’s Directorate of Logistics (DOL). In 2003 and 2005, Ms. Jernagin received annual performance ratings of “outstanding” or “excellent.” In 2007, Sergeant Travania Fair and Pamela Kent became Ms. Jernagin’s first and second line supervisors. Sergeant Fair considered Ms. Jernagin’s performance below average. In July 2007, as part of a branch reorganization, Lawrence Lawson and Mary Costa became Ms. Jernagin’s first and second line supervisors. At trial, witnesses testified that Ms. Costa had made several derogatory age-related statements toward Ms. Jernagin and her coworkers.
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The exhaustion of remedies doctrine requires parties to initiate and follow administrative procedures before seeking relief from the courts. The rationale behind the doctrine is that administrative agencies have specialized personnel, experience, and expertise to handle matters that arise under their jurisdiction. Additionally, an administrative complaint puts parties on notice of alleged wrongdoing, and administrative proceedings allow parties to resolve their disputes in a more efficient and less formal manner.

To allege discriminatory employment practices in a deferral state like Virginia, prior to filing any lawsuit, an aggrieved employee must exhaust administrative remedies by initiating an EEOC charge. Otherwise, the claim will be forever barred. The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia recently addressed the exhaustion of remedies requirement in Kerney v. Mountain States Health Alliance.

Keltie Kerney was the Home Health Director at Norton Community Hospital (“NCH”) when she began having medical problems with her eye. She informed NCH that her medical problems would require medical leave and possibly future accommodation in eye.jpgorder to continue her employment. NCH granted Kerney medical leave from August 19, 2010 through December 14, 2010 when her physician released her to return to work “with accommodations.” Upon her return to work, the hospital terminated Kerney. Kerney claims that the hospital discriminated against her on the basis of her age and disability and that it retaliated against her for her request for medical accommodations. Kerney brought suit against NCH and its owner, Mountain States Health Alliance (“MSHA”) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Virginia is a “deferral state” for Title VII purposes, meaning that it has a state law prohibiting discriminatory employment practices and has a state or local agency (e.g., the Virginia Council on Human Rights) authorized to grant relief from such practices. To allege discriminatory employment practices in deferral states like Virginia, prior to filing any lawsuit, an aggrieved employee must exhaust administrative remedies by initiating an EEOC charge within 300 days. Otherwise, the claim will be forever barred. (See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). In a case decided recently by Judge Spencer of the Eastern District of Virginia, a plaintiff found this out the hard way.

In McKelvy v. Capital One Services, LLC, the plaintiff was an African-American Director of IT services, over 40 years of age. After obtaining a “right-to-sue” letter from the EEOC, he sued Capital One, claiming that the removal of his supervisory responsibilities and the failure to promote him was based on his race or his age, and thus violated Title VII’s prohibitions against unlawful discrimination in employment. Finding that the alleged discrimination took place more than 300 days before the plaintiff filed his EEOC charge, the court granted summary judgment in Capital One’s favor and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims with prejudice.

The court also observed that, even if the plaintiff had not failed to exhaust administrative remedies, he could not prevail on his claim because he failed to present supportive facts (beyond his personal belief), to rebut Capital One’s assertion that his direct reports were taken away because other associates complained about his leadership time.jpgstyle and because of some poor performance appraisals. To survive a motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must come forward with supportive evidence.

Like it or not, if you are 40 years old or older, your employer or coworkers may consider you downright geriatric and mistakenly assume that you are no longer able to perform the requirements of your position as well as a younger person.  When you turn 40, you officially join the ranks of “old people” against whom discrimination is prohibited by law.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects employees and job applicants aged 40 and older from discrimination in employment.  The ADEA makes it unlawful for employers with 20 or more employees to discriminate on the basis of age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment.  This includes hiring, termination, promotions, salary, benefits, job assignments, and training.

According to a new class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in California against 3M Company, 3M engaged in a pattern of discrimination against employees older than 46 by giving them negative performance reviews, inferior training, lower pay, and fewer opportunities for promotion. The suit claims 3M discriminates against older workers throughout the entire United States, effectively shutting them out of top management positions.  The Plaintiffs estimate over 2000 workers have been the victims of 3M’s discriminatory employment practices.

The crux of the allegations apears to be that 3M singled out younger workers for inclusion in their intentsive “Six Sigma” management training program, virtually assuring that 3MADEA_woman.jpg leadership would be comprised entirely of younger workers.  The suit also claims that workers were asked to sign releases upon departing the company that contained misrepresentations of their legal rights.  The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the releases unenforceable as a matter of law.

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