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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
4-14-10

Wheeler County Settles EEOC Age Discrimination Suit

67-Year-Old Applicant Denied Position Because of Age, Federal Agency Charged

PORTLAND, Ore. – Wheeler County, Ore., has agreed to settle an age discrimination suit on behalf of a longtime county resident for $25,000 and other relief, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The settlement resolves the EEOC’s lawsuit, which charged that the county selected a younger, less qualified candidate over Patricia Hyatt because of age. Hyatt was 67 in the fall of 2006 when she applied to work as a part-time office assistant for the county assessor. She had over 40 years of office experience at the time and had the skills listed in the job announcement. The EEOC’s investigation showed that despite her background and experience, Hyatt was not invited to interview and ultimately was passed over for the job.

Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects people aged 40 and older from employment discrimination. The EEOC filed this suit only after a neutral investigation by former Seattle EEOC investigator Mercedes Casasola and after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation.

Under the consent decree settling the suit (EEOC v. Wheeler County, Civil Action No. 07-1350-SU, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon) approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan, Wheeler County will pay Hyatt $25,000, representing lost wages. In addition to the monetary payment, the county will adopt a comprehensive non-discrimination policy and complaint procedure, will conduct anti-discrimination training for staff with particular emphasis on age discrimination and will submit semi-annual reports to the EEOC detailing any complaints of age discrimination that may have arisen in the prior six-month period.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "Employment decisions must be based on merit and ability, not age. We filed this lawsuit to send a message to employers that age discrimination will not be tolerated.”

“Wheeler County’s decision was at a cost – it lost by failing to hire a highly qualified, capable and dedicated woman, and also faced the disruption and expense of a federal investigation and lawsuit,” added EEOC Seattle Field Director Luis Lucero.

In Fiscal Year 2009, the EEOC received its second-highest number of age discrimination charges since passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act four decades ago.

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