Pennsylvania State Agency Accused of Age Bias

During an interview, a job candidate who was older than 40 was told the employer had concerns he may not have a long tenure with the agency.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Public Records will pay $60,000 and costs to settle a federal age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Joseph Bednarik, who was older than 40, had graduated from law school with honors and had about 30 years of legal experience, including about 17 years with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, when he applied for an appeals officer position with the Office of Public Records. Appeals officers review citizen challenges to refusals by state government agencies to provide government records under Pennsylvania’s “open records” statute.

The EEOC charged that during Bednarik’s second interview for the position, the executive director of the Office of Public Records expressed concerns that Bednarik might not have a long tenure with the agency since he had already worked for the commonwealth for 17 years and might be nearing retirement.

Despite Bednarik’s qualifications and positive employment reference, the Office of Public Affairs selected a significantly less experienced and younger applicant because of Bednarik’s age, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals 40 or older based on age. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Office of Open Records, Civil Action No. 1-15-cv-01895) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, says, “As we mark the 50th anniversary of the ADEA this year, this case illustrates that age discrimination remains a serious problem in the workplace. This resolution should send a strong message to all employers, public and private, that the EEOC will not tolerate age discrimination in the workplace.”