File this one under the “sad but true” category. In a series of lawsuits that were borne out of the Jay Nixon governorship, Missouri’s Department of Labor was sued by multiple employees alleging age, gender, and disability discrimination.
Matthew Vacca v. Missouri Department of Labor
In 2012, Matthew Vacca filed a lawsuit against the department alleging that his superiors forced him out of his job because of his disability. Vacca had served as an administrative law judge since 1992 but suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy. Vacca claimed that he was fired from the department because of his disability. The jury agreed. Vacca was awarded $7 million for his workplace discrimination lawsuit.
Vacca developed a severe form of a neurodegenerative disease. He was allowed to park closer to the building and after suffering a fall due to an improperly installed grab bar, he was allowed to work from home three days out of the week. Vacca alleged that he became a target after Karla Boresi and Brian May were assigned the posts of chief judge and division director respectively. Vacca claimed that they were targeting his accommodations.
Two Lawsuits Involving Age Discrimination Also Occurred Under Nixon’s Watch
Lucinda Guthrie filed a case against the Missouri Department of Labor in 2015 alleging that she had been the victim of age discrimination and that then Deputy Director Ken Jacob fostered an hostile work environment.
Guthrie, ironically, worked for the Division of Employment Security where she was the Chief of Contributions in 2015. She alleged that Director Larry Rebman fostered a culture of “disdain and disrespect” for older employees in an attempt to force them into retirement. When older employees resisted suggestions to retire, Guthrie claimed that Rebman instigated a policy of irritation, hostility, and intimidation in order to encourage them to do so on their own.
Guthrie was not alone. In 2014, Gracia Backer filed a lawsuit against the department claiming that Rebman had initiated a similar policy against her. Backer claimed that she was fired after filing a complaint against her then-boss, Larry Rebman, which claimed that he was targeting older female employees.
Understanding Lawsuits Involving Age Discrimination
Age discrimination, unlike other kinds of discrimination, may involve a superior creating a work environment that is hostile to your career goals or to you personally. As sad as it is, even the Missouri Department of Labor is not above instituting a policy of harassment and intimidation in order to force its employees into early retirement. In this case, the policy backfired and those responsible for it are still feeling the aftershocks of having fostered such a work environment. Nonetheless, there are many Missouri workers who are not informed about their rights in this regard.
If you have been the victim of age discrimination in your workplace, and your superiors have created a hostile work environment in order to force you into early retirement, then you should be aware that age is a protected class. You do not have to endure that kind of treatment and you do not have to suffer through a hostile work environment. Feel free to call HKM Employment Attorneys at our Kansas City office at 816.607.4691 and we will begin discussing your case right away.