The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen Corp on October 1, 2012, claiming that the company violated federal law by refusing to hire a 60-year-old applicant for a telecom manager position.

The applicant, Robert Aellis, had 40 years of experience in the industry in a variety of roles; he clearly seems qualified for the position. AmerisourceBerger agrees: they say the reason they did not hire Aellis was because he was “overqualified” for the position. They hired someone 20 years younger. The EEOC claims that Aellis was rejected because of age discrimination.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits discrimination against employees who are 40 or older. In a press release regarding the lawsuit, the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. said:

Older applicants often are not given the same opportunity to compete for jobs because of age-based myths and stereotypes some hiring managers have. Too often employers try to mask age discrimination by using euphemisms like “overqualified.”

It’s somewhat unusual that the EEOC will file a lawsuit directly. Normally the victim of age or other types of discrimination has to hire an attorney to handle the case. The EEOC files lawsuits in “select” cases, based on factors such as the seriousness of the violation, the legal issues involved, and whether the case could have broader implications for the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination.

The first step in any discrimination lawsuit – whether it will ultimately be filed by the EEOC or by a private attorney – is to file a complaint with the EEOC. After reviewing the complaint, the EEOC provides a “Notice-of-Right-to-Sue,” which gives the person filing the complaint 90 days to file a lawsuit.

If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination – whether because of race, religion, gender, age, disability, national origin, genetic information, or retaliation – contact an employment law attorney at the law firm of James C. DeZao, P.A.