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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
3-31-11

Brooks County, Texas Sued by EEOC for Retaliation

Secretary in Treasurer’s Office Punished for Previous Age Bias Suit, Federal Agency Charges

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Brooks County, Texas violated federal law by retaliating against a secretary in the treasurer’s office because she had filed an age discrimination charge and lawsuit two years ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Brooks County refused to give a salary increase to the secretary in the treasurer’s office despite all other secretaries in county offices receiving higher salaries. Brooks County explained to the EEOC that the secretary in question was at the “maximum salary set for her job position” and “the maximum salaries for all secretarial/clerical job positions within Brooks County have remained the same for the last four budget years and no employees have received salaries in excess of the budget amounts.”

However, when Brooks County provided salary information, it became evident that every single person on its list of similarly situated employees had received salary raises or were hired at higher salaries. The EEOC also said that when the secretary was facing the elimination of her job, Brooks County failed to hire her in an open position in the county library because of her pending second EEOC charge.

The EEOC contends that the county was actually punishing the secretary for filing an age discrimination charge and then lawsuit against the county in 2009. At that time she was an assistant auditor in the county auditor's office and she identified her boss as the perpetrator of age discrimination.  Later that same auditor was the main gatekeeper on all of the requests for higher secretarial salaries. 

Retaliating against people who oppose what they believe to be discriminatory conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division (EEOC V. Brooks County, Texas, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-00086) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and liquidated damages, front pay and injunctive relief.

“We have observed an increase in retaliation claims at the EEOC,” said Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, which is handling this case. “In fact, retaliation now accounts for the most numerous kind of discrimination charge. Employers cannot ignore the fact that employees have a guaranteed right to voice opposition to any violation of the ADEA without fear of repercussion. Punishing employees who exercise their right to report discrimination is a violation of federal law and will be rigorously enforced by the EEOC.”

Pat Connor, trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, aid, “Even a small county employer must follow the law. The EEOC will continue to defend federally protected rights of all employees, public and private, large and small.”

In fiscal year 2010, the EEOC received 36,258 charges of retaliation, accounting for 36.3 percent of all charges, making it the most numerous kind of discrimination charge. The agency also received 23,264 charges of age discrimination in that year. This was an approximate 40 percent increase over the last 10 years, and encompassed 23 percent of the nearly 100,000 discrimination charges filed in 2010 overall.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.