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PRESS RELEASE
5-20-10

Orkin Pest Control Sued By EEOC For Age And Religious Discrimination In Hiring And Advertising

Agency Says Company Refused to Hire Older Workers and Advertised for Mormon Applicants

PHOENIX –  The  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it has  filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing pest control company Orkin of  discriminatory hiring practices in denying jobs to older workers and favoring Church  of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) (Mormon) applicants, particularly  returned missionaries. The EEOC also charged  that Orkin retaliated against an applicant who complained to the company’s  corporate headquarters about the alleged discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s suit  against of Orkin L.L.C., and Orkin Inc., doing business as Orkin Pest Control, (Case  No. ), filed in U.S. District Court for  the District of Arizona, Orkin discriminated during the hiring process against  Thomas Kokezas, as well as a class of individuals based on their age, over 40,  or religion, non-Mormon. The EEOC’s  complaint alleges that Orkin advertised on Craig’s  List for a recruiter “to assist in hiring LDS missionaries for seasonal  employ­ment” and stating that the summer position was great for “RMs,” which stands  for “returned missionaries,” who tend to be in their 20s. According to the EEOC, such advertising was  illegal because it shows a preference for a particular religion, and also a  preference for younger workers. In  addition, EEOC alleges that the discrimination apparent from the advertisements  became a reality when Orkin filled the summer jobs with applicants in their 20s,  most of whom were LDS/Mormon.

The EEOC lawsuit arose out of a  charge of discrimination filed by Kokezas, who responded to the Orkin ads on  Craig’s List. EEOC alleges that Orkin’s  agent asked Kokezas his age, then cut the interview short after learning  Kokezas was 51. According to EEOC’s  complaint, in a subsequent call, Orkin’s agent admitted that he asked all  applicants their age. Kokezas then  called Orkin’s corporate office to complain about the company’s discriminatory  hiring practices, and was referred to other managers, but was never hired or  even allowed to submit an application, which, the EEOC alleges, was in retaliation  for his complaints. According to the  EEOC, instead of hiring Kokezas, one of Orkin’s  agents, Brandon McNeil, selected a group of applicants who were all in their  20s and predominantly LDS members.

Such alleged discrimination  violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits  age-based discrimination by employers against individuals age 40 or older, as  well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers  from discriminating on the basis of religion.

“Employers must be vigilant in providing equal employment opportunities for all applicants regardless of their  age or religion,” said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “They must not rely on age-based stereotypes  about older workers or act based on favoritism toward appli­cants of a  particular religious denomination. Employers  cannot recruit and hire employees based upon religion unless the employer is a‘religious organization’ as defined  by Title VII, or isseeking employees for ministerial positions.”

EEOC Acting Phoenix District Director Rayford  Irvin said, “The explicit discrimination evidenced by these job  advertisements is illegal. We hope that  by filing this lawsuit we are sending a message that the EEOC will not allow  employers to discriminate based on their personal preference for people of a  particular age or religion.”

As part of its suit, the EEOC is seeking  monetary relief for Kokezas and a class of individuals denied employment based  on age or religion, an end to any discriminatory employment practices by Orkin,  and other equitable relief. The EEOC  filed suit only after exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary settlement.

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