Jet Parts Maker to Pay $130K to Settle Age Discrimination Suit

Baltimore-based MRA Systems Inc., a subsidiary of General Electric that makes specialized structures for major aircraft manufacturers, will pay $130,000 and provide substantial equitable relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

EEOC charged in its suit that MRA Systems gave Louis Behrendt a lower performance rating, despite his successful job performance, because of his age, 61. EEOC also alleged that the company failed to assign Behrendt to a position as a Production Control Leader 5 and instead awarded the position, which had greater salary potential, to a younger, less-qualified employee. Moreover, the company subjected him to unfair and heightened job scrutiny, gave him poor performance ratings and refused to promote him based on his age and in retaliation for his internal complaints about discrimin¬ation, EEOC charged.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who are 40 or older when making employment decisions, such as promotions, job assignments, and performance ratings. The ADEA also forbids employers from retaliating against individuals who oppose age discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern District (Civil Action Number 1:08-cv-02499-WDQ) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief to Behrendt, the three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit contains significant remedial measures, including enjoining the company from engaging in any employment practice which discriminates on the basis of age and prohibiting any unlawful retaliation. MRA Systems will provide at least two hours of mandatory training on federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination to all managers, supervisors, and other employees who participate in the performance evaluation process or assignment decisions at its Maryland facility. The company will also post a notice on the resolution of the lawsuit, EEOC said.

"Age-based stereotypes about the abilities of older workers can result in older employees receiving lower performance ratings, lower compensation, and fewer promotional opportunities than younger co-workers," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. "We appreciate MRA Systems working with EEOC to reach a settlement that, in addition to providing compensation to Mr. Behrendt, is intended to protect all employees at the company's Maryland facility from being subjected to unfair treatment based on age."

According to its website, www.mras-usa.com, MRA Systems is one of the world's leading suppliers of jet engine thrust reversers -- the brakes of a jet engine.

In Fiscal Year 2009, age-based charges reached a total of 22,778, their second-highest level ever.

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