The lawsuit, EEOC v. CollegeAmerica Denver, Inc. (civil action no. 14-cv-01232-LTB-MJW), was filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. In the suit, the EEOC alleges that CollegeAmerica violated federal age discrimination law by including unlawful provisions in a separation agreement with one of its former campus directors. Also alleged is that CollegeAmerica further violated federal law by retaliating against the campus director, Debbi D. Potts, by suing her after learning she filed a discrimination charge.
Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination against workers age 40 and older. The EEOC is seeking to recover attorney’s fees for Potts and other costs incurred in defending the state court lawsuit. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including rulings to invalidate Potts’s separation agreement and to require CollegeAmerica to reform its separation and release agreements to comply with the ADEA. The suite, if successful, could also force CollegeAmerica to provide anti-discrimination training and establish policies and programs to stop any future violations of the ADEA.
According to the lawsuit, Potts, the former director of CollegeAmerica’s campus in Cheyenne, Wyoming, resigned in July 2012 and subsequently signed a separation agreement in September 2012 that conditioned the receipt of separation benefits on, among other things, her promise not to file any complaint or grievance with any government agency or to disparage CollegeAmerica.
These provisions would prevent Potts from reporting any alleged employment discrimination to the EEOC or filing a discrimination charge, the suit alleges. Seven days after CollegeAmerica learned that Potts filed a charge against CollegeAmerica alleging age discrimination and retaliation, the EEOC claims, the school sued Potts in Colorado state court for allegedly violating her severance agreement. The EEOC asserts that the state court lawsuit was improperly filed in retaliation for Potts filing her charge.
The EEOC also claims provisions that similarly impede employees’ rights to file charges and cooperate with the EEOC exist in CollegeAmerica’s form separation and release agreements, which are both routinely used with its employees.
The EEOC notes that CollegeAmerica is an accredited, private college with six campuses in Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming offering degrees in business, information technology, health care and graphic arts.
The EEOC’s lawsuit can be downloaded here.
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