Federal lawsuit accuses KU Medical Center of age discrimination

Someone filling out Notice of Lawsuit Form.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A federal lawsuit filed Friday accuses the University of Kansas Medical Center of discharging an employee who reported age discrimination practices by a department head.

The lawsuit against the Kansas City, Kansas-based medical center was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It alleges that in 2014, the medical center’s associate vice chancellor for information resources advised managers within that department to focus on hiring younger people over older applicants.

The lawsuit said information technology help desk supervisor Jeffrey Thomas reported his concerns. The EEOC said the vice chancellor then reorganized the department to eliminate Thomas’ position.

KU Medical Center spokeswoman Kay Hawes declined comment on the case, citing pending litigation, but said in a statement that the center “is committed to the inclusion of all members of our campus community and takes very seriously its responsibility to prevent and eliminate discrimination.” She said the university also seeks to foster an environment where employees “feel comfortable and protected when speaking up and reporting complaints of discrimination.”

The EEOC said an internal investigation confirmed Thomas’ allegations and identified at least one instance where an applicant was turned away because of her age.

“Hiring discrimination is one of the most difficult types of employment discrimination to identify because applicants almost never know the reason they were not selected for a job,” Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis, said in a statement. “Individuals like Mr. Thomas should be commended — and protected from retaliation — for standing up against discriminatory hiring practices.”

The lawsuit seeks financial relief for Thomas, damages, and an order preventing future retaliatory conduct by the medical center, the EEOC said.

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