Marc Santos and Geraldo Zaffa are two firefighters who filed a lawsuit against the Milpitas Fire Department for alleged age discrimination. The two men were placed on a list of qualified state and local firefighters by the California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee. The list is maintained for those who have been terminated as a consequence of job elimination. Hiring preference is supposed to go to those at the “top” of the list for workers that have been displaced or out of work the longest. Both men sought positions at the Milpitas Fire Department, which participates in the list. When they were not hired, they filed the lawsuit.
Santos and Zaffa are older than 40, and contend were not hired in favor of younger applicants. According to the lawsuit, when the department reviewed other applicants the fact that Santos and Zaffa were over 40 years of age were substantial factors in the decision not to hire. The city believes that the allegations are completely and utterly without merit, and has vowed to defend the case.
The case serves as a reminder that age discrimination claims remain among the most frequently filed employment disputes. Of the 18,335 employment cases filed in 2010 with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, one-fifth cited age discrimination. In terms of popularity, that puts age below retaliation as a claim, but above racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual orientation.
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