OC Discrimination Suit Settled; Training Ordered For Employees

OCEAN CITY — An agreement has been reached in the civil suit filed last September against the town of Ocean City alleging age bias and discrimination in its hiring practices, resulting in a payment of $38,000 in lost wages to the offended party and hours of training for some of the town’s upper level management.

Last September, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Mayor and Council for allegedly violating the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) with regard to its hiring practices. In its formal complaint, the EEOC charged Ocean City discriminated against airport employee Anthony Indge, 62, when it failed to hire him to the position of full-time airport associate in May 2008.

According to the complaint, Indge was employed at the airport as a temporary line technician. However, for about a month in late 2007, Indge filled in as a part-time airport associate after a full-time airport associate had to take leave. In March 2008, Indge again filled in as a part-time airport associate after the town of Ocean City discharged a full-time employee in the same capacity.

The formal complaint alleges Indge performed the duties of the airport associate position to the satisfaction of his employers, to the point the airport manager told him he was one of the facility’s “more valued employees.” However, during an interview in May 2008, the airport manager allegedly “made ageist comments to Indge, including telling Indge that he had serious concerns about Indge’s age and that he did not think Indge would have a long-term commitment because of his age.”

Over the last few weeks, it appeared the case was nearing resolution and a settlement conference was held two weeks ago. This week, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grimm announced the EEOC and the town of Ocean City had agreed to enter a consent decree, which essentially resolves the issue to the satisfaction of both parties, although the terms appear favorable to the plaintiff.

“The commission and the defendant desire to resolve this action without the time and expense of continued litigation, and they desire to enter a Decree, which will resolve this action,” the consent decree reads. “The court has examined this Decree and finds that it is reasonable and just and in accordance with the federal rules of civil procedure.”

The consent decree essentially resolves all issues and claims alleged in the complaint filed by the EEOC, which emanated from the charges of discrimination filed by Indge.

“This decree shall be in effect for a period of three years from the date it is entered by the court,” the consent decree reads. “During that time, this court shall retain jurisdiction over this matter and the parties for the purpose of enforcing compliance with the decree, including issuing such orders as may be required to effectuate the purposes of the decree.”

The consent decree outlines a laundry list of things the town of Ocean City must complete to hold up its end of the agreement, including a payment of $38,000 in lost wages to Indge within 10 days of the entry of the decree. The decree also enjoins the town and its managers and employees from discriminating against future applicants on the basis of age.

For example, within 60 days of the entry of the decree, all Ocean City management employees who oversee airport personnel, including but not limited to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, Deputy Public Works Director Dick Malone and Human Resources Director Wayne Evans, are required to attend a training program lasting at least three hours and all Ocean City Airport employees are required to attend a separate training program lasting at least one hour.

The training will cover the prevention of employee discrimination and compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, with a particular emphasis on the prohibition against age discrimination including harassment. For the duration of the decree, Ocean City is required to provide the same training to all newly hired or appointed airport employees.

Within 10 days of each training session, Ocean City is required to provide to the EEOC a signed attendance list, the date and duration of the training, an outline of the training conducted and a certification of the completion of the mandatory training.

Within 30 days of the entry of the decree, Ocean City will be required to post a notice in all locations where similar notices are posted for employees stating, among other things, the town will not engage in any acts or practices unlawful under the ADEA, the town will not retaliate against any person who engages in protected activity and the town will conduct its employment practices without regard to age.

In addition, Evans will be required to distribute a memorandum to all airport employees emphasizing Ocean City’s commitment to abide by all federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Every 90 days following the entry of the consent decree and continuing through the life of the decree, the town will report to the EEOC concerning the implementation of the orders.