A consent decree signed in Minneapolis this month seems to be the final chapter in the story of Human Resources Manager Patricia Lebens and her former employer. It’s a story of post-discharge reporting of possible employment discrimination, potential retaliation in the form of filing of a criminal complaint of theft against Lebens, and a cautionary reminder that doing what’s right must be backed up by proper judicial procedure.
The March 7, 2016 announcement of the settlement indicated that PMT, a Chanhassen, Minnesota-based medical device and equipment manufacturer will pay $1,020,000 to a class of job applicants who were rejected for sales positions because they were women or over the age of 40, and to Lebens who is described as “a former human resources employee who notified EEOC that she believed PMT was engaging in discriminatory practices”.
In the lawsuit that began Leben’s journey through federal court, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged that, after the initial discrimination charge was filed, PMT president Alfred Iversen retaliated against former Human Resources Manager Patricia Lebens. After Iversen discovered in September 2012 that Lebens was the source of the allegations, he directed PMT Human Resources Manager Luke Wetterlin to contact the Carver County Sheriff’s Office and file a criminal complaint accusing Lebens of theft. The Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegations and gave Lebens twenty-four hours to produce documentation rebutting the allegations. Lebens produced such documentation, and the Sheriff’s Office found the allegations unfounded and closed the case.
A court order signed by David S. Doty, District Judge, on August 27, 2014 explores issues of a retaliatory hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and identification of victims. This relatively short and concise order gives us a glimpse of the responsibility of the EEOC to follow accepted legal processes and the legal reasoning of the Court as it unwinds the various claims and counter claims of this type of suit. (see http://www.leagle.com/decision/In FDCO 20140829M91/U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. PMT Corporation)
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, PMT engaged in a pattern or practice of systemic hiring discrimination when, between Jan. 1, 2007 and late 2010, it hired over 70 individuals as sales representatives, but not a single applicant who was female or over 40 years of age. This type of employment practice violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
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