N.M. Jail Agency Pays Big in Age Bias Lawsuit

Settling allegations of age discrimination and retaliation came at a big price for this agency in the Land of Enchantment.

The State of New Mexico, Corrections Department (NMCD), the state agency that operates correctional facilities throughout New Mexico, will pay $700,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, NMCD discriminated against several employees by denying them promotions and job assignments as well as in other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of their ages, over 40. The EEOC’s lawsuit further charged that NMCD retaliated against employees because they opposed age discrimination, filed discrimination charges, or participated in investi­gations of discrimination complaints.

Age discrimination against persons who are 40 years old or older violates the Age Discrim­ination in Employment Act (ADEA). Retaliation against individuals because they file internal com­plaints, file EEOC discrimination charges, or participate in EEO investigations or proceedings also violate the ADEA’s provisions that prohibit retaliation.

The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. State of New Mexico, Department of Corrections, 1:15-CV-00879-KK/LF (D. NM), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concili­ation process.

The settlement requires NMCD to ensure that workplace policies are in place to prohibit age discrimination and retaliation and to provide training to all its employees about NMCD’s anti-discrim­ination policies. The settlement allows charging parties or aggrieved individuals to request review of hiring authority decisions during the agreement’s two-year term.

The agreement also requires NMCD to conduct periodic internal analyses of selection decisions to determine whether applicants 40 and over are being selected proportionally to their representation in the applicant pool, and to post a notice that advises employees of NMCD’s policies and the ADEA’s prohibitions on age discrimination and retaliation. Finally, the settlement also provides $700,000 in monetary relief to past and current NMCD employees the EEOC has identified as experiencing age discrimination and/or retaliation while working for NMCD.

“Employers who make employment decisions based on stereotypical notions of an older worker’s ability to work risk losing good employees who bring valuable experience and skill to their jobs,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “The EEOC will vigorously enforce the laws prohibiting age discrimination and retaliation against workers who have the courage to complain about it.”

EEOC’s Phoenix District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, “We are pleased that this lawsuit was resolved with significant monetary relief for older workers in New Mexico.”

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