Federal Agency Charged County Used Threat of a Stress Test for Persons Age 70 and Older to Force Employee to Retire
OMAHA, Neb. -- Dawes County, located in northwestern Nebraska, will pay $50,000 to an elderly former employee to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Dawes County instituted a policy requiring all full-time employees over age 70 in the Roads Department to take a medical stress test. Russell Hack worked in the Roads Department and was the only full-time employee over age 70. Although Hack planned to work several more years, his supervisor told him he had to retire because he would not pass the test. After Hack retired, the EEOC said, the county never implemented the stress test policy.
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska (EEOC v. Dawes County, Nebraska, Civil Action No. 07-CV-376-JFB-TDT) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
Under the consent decree settling the suit, Dawes County will provide training to its employees on age discrimination. The county also agreed to post a notice in its facility defining and prohibiting discrimination, informing employees of their rights under federal law, and setting forth a procedure for employees to make reports of discrimination. The county will also be subject to EEOC reporting provisions that provide for the agency’s monitoring of age discrimination issues that may arise in the future.
“Employers must not use age as a criteria in employment decisions,” said James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “Forced retirement is prohibited by the ADEA except in very limited circumstances.”
The St. Louis District Office is responsible for litigation in Nebraska, and the EEOC’s Oklahoma Area Office is part of the St. Louis District and handled the litigation.
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Michelle Robertson added, “Retirement is an important milestone in a person’s life, a symbol of years of dedication and hard work, but forcing someone to retire simply because of age may violate the law.”
Age bias has accounted for one of the fastest-growing categories of discrimination charges filed with the EEOC in the past few years — steadily increasing from 16,548 filings in fiscal year 2006 to 24,582 filings in FY 2008, a record high.
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.