Organization Fired Two Older Employees Because of Age, Federal Agency Charges
WASHINGTON — Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that provides services to blind veterans, violated federal law when it fired two longstanding employees because of their age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
The EEOC charges that BVA officials, including a member of the BVA board of directors, repeatedly asked Lazaro Martinez, who was then age 76 and had worked for BVA for 34 years, when he would retire from his position as assistant national field service director at the association’s Mather, Calif., location. Martinez replied that he was not considering retirement. About two months later, BVA announced that it was “reclassifying” certain jobs, including Martinez’s position, and that he needed to compete for one of the newly-created national field service officer positions if he wanted to remain employed by BVA. In order to compete for one of the newly created jobs, BVA imposed on Martinez arbitrary and unrealistic requirements. According to the lawsuit, BVA terminated Martinez because of his age and selected a younger candidate for a national field service officer position.
The EEOC also contends that Suzanne Matthews, who was then 70 years of age, had worked for BVA in Washington, D.C. for approximately 15 years when her supervisor repeatedly asked her, “When are you going to retire?” and “When are you moving to Florida?” Despite her good job performance, BVA abruptly terminated Matthews from her position as an administrative assistant to the national director of field service. After being notified of her termination, Matthews applied for a newly created BVA position for which she was qualified. The lawsuit charges that BVA fired Matthews because of her age and selected an employee for the newly created position who was over 20 years younger than Matthews and who had only three years of experience with BVA.
Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Blinded Veterans Association, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-02102) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In the lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking an injunction prohibiting BVA from engaging in future age discrimination, lost wages and liquidated damages, as well as other affirmative relief.
“Employers head in the wrong direction if they make employment decisions based on age or try to pressure employees to retire,” said Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein. “Older workers are valuable contributors to the workforce and economy, and the EEOC will take strong action if employers fire people because of their age.”
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Targeting older workers under the pretext of a reorganization doesn’t fool anyone – it’s clearly age discrimination, and clearly unlawful.”
The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC prosecutes cases arising out of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, parts of New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.