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PRESS RELEASE
10-2-18

EEOC Sues Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for Age Discrimination

Applicant Denied Hire and Clinical Social Worker Constructively Discharged Because of Age, Federal Agency Charges

DETROIT - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, violated federal law by denying hire to an older applicant and constructively discharging an older employee because of their ages, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed September 28.

According to the EEOC lawsuit, 56-year-old Phyllis DeWaters was a qualified applicant who had been unanimously recommended by an interview panel to be hired as a clinical social worker at the hospital. The 31-year-old clinical services director instead selected a much younger employee, citing a preference for younger workers.

The same clinical services director supervised another older worker, 60-year-old Janet Luchies, who worked as a clinical social worker for the hospital. When the clinical services director became her supervisor in November 2015, he gave Luchies the least desirable assignments, scrutinized her work closer than her colleagues, and wrote her up. As a result, she took a medical leave of absence and subsequently retired.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 1:18-cv-01127 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief that prohibits the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from discriminating against employees based on age, as well as monetary relief including backpay and liquidated damages, and other affirmative relief for DeWaters and Luchies.

"Denying hire to an applicant because of age and forcing an employee to quit because of age are unlawful acts," said Dale Price, trial attorney for the Detroit Field Office. "The EEOC is pursuing this matter because federal law provides specific protections to members of our workforce, like DeWaters and Luchies, who are age 40 and older."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on www.eeoc.gov. The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.