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PRESS RELEASE
12-20-12

American Samoa Government and EEOC Settle Age Discrimination Suit

U.S. Territory Will Provide Anti-Discrimination Training & Relief, Settling the Federal Agency's First Lawsuit in American Samoa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it settled an age discrimination lawsuit against the American Samoa government on behalf of a class of older workers who were allegedly forced into retirement or reassigned into undesirable positions to free slots for young people.   The U.S. territory agreed to a process for government-wide reinstatement of ousted older workers and to extensive relief to prevent age discrimination.  

According to the EEOC, the American Samoa government initiated a campaign to remove older employees from the government work force in order to create jobs for younger Samoans.  In 2009 the EEOC alleged that the Samoan government engaged in a widespread campaign to eliminate older workers.  The EEOC alleged that government officials removed older staff by involuntarily reassigning employees over the age of 50 into undesirable positions to pressure them into retirement or resignation.  Although the campaign against older workers began in the human resources department, EEOC contends that it spread to all departments of the American Samoa government.  

Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).   The EEOC originally filed its lawsuit in August 2011 in U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii (EEOC v. American Samoa Government, Department of Human Resources, Case No. CV11-00525-JMS-RLP), after first attempting to settle the matter through its conciliation process.

The parties entered into a three-year consent decree in which American Samoa government agreed to create a reinstatement process for all government employees over the age of forty who were terminated or forced into retirement because age discrimination. The human resources department will solicit and investigate claims of age-based removals and reinstate all affected workers if a position exists.  The Samoan government also agreed to revise its existing policies and complaint procedures to address age discrimination and retaliation; designate an equal employment opportunity (EEO) consultant to assist with compliance; train all government employees on their rights and responsibilities under EEO laws with an emphasis on age discrimination across all departments; provide additional training to managers, supervisors and lead employees on discrimination issues; and allow the EEOC to monitor compliance and review the handling of internal complaints.  

"We commend the American Samoa government for agreeing to develop a system to reinstate workers that may have been discriminated against and to implement proactive and preventive measures throughout the government," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which includes American Samoa in its jurisdiction.  "The American Samoa government has shown its commitment to protecting the rights of all employees, regardless of their age." 

Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC's Honolulu Local Office, added, "The EEOC is committed to addressing discrimination throughout the United States, including the U.S. territory of American Samoa.  Ongoing training is an important and necessary tool to prevent and address discrimination in the workplace." 

American Samoa is a territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean.  Its largest and most populous island is Tutuila, with the Manu'a Islands, Rose Atoll, and Swains Island also included in the territory.  Its government employs approximately 5,000 people.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.