EEOC Says Employee Faced Reprisal For Opposing Ageist Remarks
SAN FRANCISCO — A private university violated federal law by retaliating against a college counselor who testified to witnessing age discrimination during an internal investigation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit filed today.
David Branham, who worked as a college counselor at the Fairfield campus of the Chapman University College (now Brandman University), confirmed that he heard his campus director make ageist comments about a co-worker during an investigation into her allegations of discrimination. After doing so, Branham suffered retaliation by the Vice Chancellor and the campus director to the point where he felt compelled to quit, said the EEOC.
“I never imagined being forced to retire early from a job I loved. But when I spoke up against ageist remarks made against a co-worker, I became the target of retaliation. Within four months, I was suddenly written up without justification,” said Branham, who was 64 at the time he left his job. “I had worked for Chapman for three years and had never received a write-up before. I am so glad that the EEOC investigated my case.”
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination based on age and protects workers who report such discrimination from retaliation. After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement, the EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (EEOC v. University College of Chapman University, Chapman University College d/b/a Brandman University, Chapman University System), and seeks damages for lost wages, training on anti-discrimination laws and other injunctive relief.
EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo pointed out that more than a third of all charges seen by the Commission involve retaliation, and that, for the first time ever, retaliation under all statutes (36,258) surpassed race (35,890) as the most frequently filed charge at the EEOC in fiscal year 2010.
Tamayo said, “Chapman violated federal law by targeting an employee who opposed age discrimination against a co-worker. It’s critical that the EEOC defend workers’ rights to speak out against discrimination."
“Employers must realize there is nothing to gain by trying to sweep allegations of discrimination under the carpet, and a great deal to lose,” EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said. “Retaliation is a charge that we take very seriously.”
Chapman University System consists of Chapman University (which employed the Vice Chancellor and campus director) and Brandman University (which employed Branham). Founded in 1861 and located in Orange, Calif., Chapman University is a private university that caters to traditional full-time students. Comprised of twenty-six campuses throughout California and Washington, Brandman University is a private, non-profit institution that provides educational opportunities for working adults.
The EEOC is responsible for federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information about the EEOC can be found at www.eeoc.gov.