State Psychiatric Hospital Refused to Hire Older Applicant

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Pays $115,000 to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Suit

State Psychiatric Hospital Refused to Hire Older Applicant and Forced an Employee to Quit Because of Age, Federal Agency Charged

DETROIT – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, will pay a total of $115,000 and provide other relief to settle a federal age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, MDHHS violated federal law by declining to hire an applicant because of her age. The then 56-year-old applicant applied to be a clinical social worker and was the unanimous choice of a three-person hiring panel. The panel was overruled by the 31-year-old clinical services director, who selected a much younger and less experienced candidate, citing a preference for younger candidates.

The EEOC also alleged that the clinical services director began to compile a list of alleged performance problems by a then 60-year-old clinical social worker who had performed at a high level since her hire in 1998. When the social worker became the target of heightened scrutiny, derogatory statements and criticism because of her age, she felt she had no choice but to retire early, the EEOC alleged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits covered employers from discriminating against applicants or employees because they are age 40 or older. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids (Case No. 1:18-cv-01127) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, the two-year settlement agreement resolving the suit provides for equitable relief, training on the ADEA, reporting to the EEOC, and posting a notice of employee rights.

“The ADEA is clear—no employer can deny hire to an applicant because it prefers younger candidates,” said Dale Price, the EEOC attorney who handled the case. “Employers also cannot single out older workers for performance issues while ignoring those of younger workers. The training, reporting and notice provisions under the agreement provide meaningful protections for the employees of the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital.”

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