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Thomasville City Schools Sued by EEOC for Age Discrimination

54-Year Old Teacher Denied Two Assistant Principal Positions Because of Her Age, Federal Agency Charges

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Thomasville City Schools based in Thomasville, N.C. The federal agency charged that Thomasville failed to hire Arlene Lent for two assistant principal positions because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Thomasville Schools has four schools in its jurisdiction and Lent applied for assistant principal positions at two of those schools, Liberty Drive Elementary School and Thomasville Middle School. Lent learned that she was not selected for the Liberty Drive Elementary School position in August 2007, and the Thomasville Middle School position in January 2008.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Lent worked as a teacher at Liberty Drive Elementary School when she applied for the positions. Lent, who has a North Carolina principal’s license, had 16 years of experience in education at the time of the alleged discrimination. Notably, she had worked for an entire school year as an administrative intern supervising 35 teachers as well as support personnel and more than 500 students. The EEOC alleges in its complaint that Thomasville Schools selected two younger, less qualified candidates for assistant principal positions over Lent because of her age (54 at the time she was denied the jobs). The EEOC said Lent met all of the minimum qualifications for the positions while neither of the younger candidates who were selected met the qualifications. For example, neither of the selectees who were 39 and 35 years of age, respectively, held a principal’s license.

Refusing to hire a candidate because of her age violates the ADEA. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Thomasville City Schools, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-00686), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. In its complaint, the EEOC seeks back pay, rightful-place hiring, and liquidated damages for Lent, as well as injunctive relief.

“Too often, age bias is the determining factor in hiring decisions and older applicants are simply written off and not given a fair chance to compete,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers cannot refuse to hire qualified older workers because of their age; it is illegal as well as unfair and counterproductive.”

Tina Burnside, EEOC supervisory trial attorney, added, “Federal law makes clear that employers may not discriminate based on age, and the EEOC will continue to combat that practice.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at