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.