Bias Suit against Defense Department Reinstated

November 22, 2010 ( – A federal appellate court has breathed new life into an age discrimination lawsuit against the Defense Department’s Contract Management Agency.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a lower court ruling that dismissed plaintiff Barry L. Bartlett’s age and gender bias claims, after ruling Bartlett had put forward enough evidence to survive a motion to dismiss and sent the matter back for further proceedings.

U.S. Circuit Judge Eric Lee Clay, writing for the court, said the 58-year-old Bartlett applied for a promotion in 2005 after having worked for the Contract Management Agency for 34 years. The job was given to a 39-year-old female who, unlike Bartlett, had no college degree, the opinion said.

Bartlett charged in his suit that supervisors had said things to him including, “You have had 34 years, and that is enough,” and that between 2003 and 2005, employees 55 or older had received only one agency promotion, despite making up 36% of the agency’s workforce.

According to Clay’s ruling, the agency justified the promotion of the woman who got the job for which Bartlett had applied on the grounds she was “highly motivated” while saying Bartlett was an “average employee who lacked sufficient background in contracts and a strong writing ability.”

The appellate panel concluded, however, that Bartlett “was qualified, if not more qualified than (the female).” Clay also said that despite the assertion the woman was the best qualified candidate, the supervisor “was unable to describe the candidates’ credentials,” which suggests “the actual basis” for the promotion decision was a pretext for sex and age discrimination.