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PRESS RELEASE
9-6-19

EEOC Sues KU Medical Center for Firing Whistleblower Who Exposed Age Discrimination

Department Retaliated When Manager Reported Age Bias in Hiring, Federal Agency Charges

ST. LOUIS - The University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) violated federal law when it discharged a manager who alerted officials that his department head instructed staff to give hiring preference to millennials over older applicants, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit today.

According to the EEOC, in 2014, KUMC's associate vice chancellor for information resources and chief information officer advised managers in the information resources department to focus on hiring younger people. After Jeffrey Thomas, who supervised the IT help desk, reported the age bias to KUMC officials, the vice chancellor ordered a reorganization of the information resources department and eliminated Thomas's position, resulting in his termination. Later, an internal investigation con­firmed Thomas's allegations and identified at least one instance where an applicant was not hired because of her age.

Such alleged conduct violates the anti-retaliation provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits employers from taking negative actions against employees who report age discrimination by their employer. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. University of Kansas, Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-02540), in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for Thomas, liquidated damages, and an order preventing future retaliatory conduct.

"Hiring discrimination is one of the most difficult types of employment discrimination to identify because applicants almost never know the reason they were not selected for a job," said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC's regional attorney in St. Louis. "Individuals like Mr. Thomas should be com­mended - and protected from retaliation - for standing up against discriminatory hiring practices."

L. Jack Vasquez, Jr., director of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office, said, "Ending retaliation against employees who report discrimination is one of the EEOC's top priorities. Unfortunately, age discrimination has become all too common in the workplace, and it is to Mr. Thomas's credit that he was willing to stand up to oppose it."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

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.