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Michigan man sues for age discrimination

A Michigan school district is facing a workplace discrimination lawsuit filed by its former business manager. In a case filed in the civil division of Berrien County Trial Court, the man claims wrongful termination on the basis of age. He says he was dismissed from employment so that the school district could avoid paying his pension and health benefits. The school district denies the allegations.

The plaintiff had worked for Buchanan Community Schools in the role of business manager since 1989. He claims that in 2010, he and three other older, long-time school administrators were forced to retire from the school district and go to work for an educational staffing company performing the same duties as before. The plaintiff says that this move allowed the school district to avoid tenure rules and prevented him from accruing additional years of service under the state's retirement plan for public school employees. Although he no longer technically was employed by the school district, the plaintiff says it retained control over the terms and conditions of his employment, including the authority to fire him.

On February 15, 2013, the plaintiff says the school superintendent came to his office and told him he was being relieved of his duties effective immediately. She then told school district staff that he retired. He says that this was the first he knew that his job was in jeopardy and the reason for the dismissal was unlawful age discrimination. He is seeking compensatory and exemplary damages, payment of lost wages, and reinstatement to his former employment with the school district.

This case demonstrates how some employers are becoming more creative in finding ways to dismiss older workers in order to avoid paying for costly retirement or health care benefits. However, taking action against older workers on the basis of age is unlawful under both Michigan and federal law. Like the plaintiff in this case, an optional recourse for someone who has suffered workplace age discrimination is a claim for damages and other remedies.

Source: South Bend Tribune, "Former business manager sues school district", Debra Haight, May 24, 2013

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