State Agency Refused to Hire Attorney Based on Age, Federal Agency Charged
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Office of Public Records will pay $60,000 and costs to settle a federal age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Joseph Bednarik, who was over 40 years old, had graduated from law school with honors and had about 30 years of legal experience, including about 17 years with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, when he applied for an appeals officer position with the Office of Public Records. Appeals officers review citizen challenges to refusals by state government agencies to provide government records under Pennsylvania's "open records" statute.
The EEOC charged that during Bednarik's second interview for the position, the executive director of the Office of Public Records expressed concerns that Bednarik might not have a long tenure with the agency since he had already worked for the commonwealth for 17 years and might be nearing retirement. Despite Bednarik's qualifications and positive employment reference, the Office of Public Affairs selected a significantly less experienced and younger applicant because of Bednarik's age, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals 40 or older based on age. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Office of Open Records, Civil Action No. 1-15-cv-01895) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"The EEOC will take vigorous action when an employer makes a hiring decision because of age," said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, added, "As we mark the 50th anniversary of the ADEA this year, this case illustrates that age discrimination remains a serious problem in the workplace. This resolution should send a strong message to all employers, public and private, that the EEOC will not tolerate age discrimination in the workplace."
The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC is observing the 50th anniversary of the ADEA this year by paying special attention to the ongoing problem of age discrimination. On June 14, the Commission held a meeting on the state of age discrimination in America today and the challenges it poses for the future.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.