EEOC Sues Penn.’s Open Records Office for Alleged Age Discrimination

October 13, 2015

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Oct. 7 that it has filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Office of Public Records for allegedly violating federal law when it refused to hire an attorney for a vacant appeals officer position because of his age.

Pennsylvania’s Office of Public Records said it believes the lawsuit is completely without merit and that the Office looks forward to a jury hearing the case.

According to 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 around 17 years with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission — when he applied for an appeals officer position with the Office of Public Records.

EEOC charges that during Bednarik’s second interview for the job, an official expressed concerns that Bednarik would 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 reference, the Office of Public Records selected another applicant who was 15 years younger and who EEOC claimed was “significantly less experienced.”

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 on the basis of age. EEOC said it filed the suit (EEOC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Office of Open Records, Civil Action No. 1-15-cv-01895-CCC) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Too often, older applicants and workers experience discrimination based on negative stereotypes and erroneous age-biased assumptions,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “EEOC will hold employers accountable when they make hiring decisions based on age rather than ability.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Refusing to hire a qualified candidate based on speculation about his possible future retirement plans is illegal age discrimination, plain and simple.”

Source: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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