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EMPLOYMENT LAW ó 12/07/05

Maritime facility & union to pay $625,000 for age bias

The EEOC has announced a litigation settlement for $625,000 and comprehensive injunctive relief in an employment discrimination suit against the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (Paul Hall Center) and Seafarers International (SIU) alleging age bias in an apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeship program, which is based in Piney Point, Maryland, trains individuals wishing to become mariners in the US Merchant Marine. Upon completion of the apprenticeship program, graduates are guaranteed jobs as unlicensed seamen onboard a SIU contracted vessel. The EEOC asserted in the lawsuit that the Paul Hall Center and SIU refused to admit individuals at least 40 years old into the apprenticeship program in violation of the ADEA. The EEOC contended that applicants who were at least 40-years-old were sent letters advising them that they "must be between the ages of 18 and 25" to apply. In addition, admissions representatives coded the applications of many of the individuals over 40, specifically noting they were "too old."

The EEOC's lawsuit, initially filed on September 30, 2002 in the US District Court, District of Maryland, was resolved following an interlocutory appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (EEOC v Seafarers Intíl Union, 85 EPD ∂41,816). In that suit, Paul Hall Center and SIU challenged the validity of an EEOC regulation stating that apprenticeship programs are covered by the ADEA. On January 7, 2005, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the EEOC's regulation was a valid extension of the ADEA.

Under the terms of a consent decree resolving the matter, entered by US District Judge Marvin J. Garbis on November 14, 2005, the Paul Hall Center and SIU have agreed to pay a total of $625,000 to be distributed to a class of individuals who were denied the opportunity to attend the apprenticeship program due to ageism.

In addition to the monetary relief, the Paul Hall Center and SIU have agreed to comply with the ADEA, which includes not imposing any upper age limit; posting a notice concerning prohibitions against discrimination; and training employees responsible for recruiting, screening and admitting new apprentice program participants in federal laws which prohibit discrimination. The Paul Hall Center and SIU have also agreed that its admission practices will be under continued monitoring by the EEOC for a period of five years.

For more information on this and other topics, consult CCH Employment Practices Guide or CCH Labor Relations.

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