Minnesota Medical Device Company Barred Women and Older Applicants from Sales Jobs, Retaliated Against Employee for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - A Chanhassen, Minn., medical device and equipment manufacturer violated federal civil rights laws by refusing to hire women and applicants over the age of 40 and by retaliating against its former human resources director who reported the allegations of discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, the EEOC conducted an administrative investigation which revealed that between Jan. 1, 2007 and late 2010, PMT Corporation did not employ any female sales representatives, despite hiring at least 70 individuals during that time, according to EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, who oversaw the investigation. Moreover, Rowe said, PMT's president and CEO Alfred Iversen allegedly directed PMT's hiring officials to reject female applicants for sales representtative positions.
"We have identified witnesses who allegedly heard Iversen complain that 'women in sales is a 100% failure rate,' and that women were a 'failure at travel' necessary for the sales position," Rowe said.
The EEOC also contends that during the same period PMT did not hire any applicants over the age of 40. According to Rowe, witnesses confirmed that PMT's Iversen allegedly directed them to screen out resumes and applications with college graduation dates more than 10 years prior.
In addition to accusing PMT Corporation of engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring discrimination, the EEOC is also asserting a retaliation claim on behalf of a former PMT human resources official who brought PMT's practices to the EEOC's attention. The agency charges that PMT management had a representative go to the sheriff and falsely accuse the official of felony theft to punish him for reporting the discrimination.
Refusal to hire people because of their gender constitutes unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and refusal to hire a person because he or she is over the age of 40 constitutes unlawful age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Further, retaliation against an employee or former employee because of his or her opposition to discrimination and/or participation in protected activity, such as participating in an EEOC investigation as a witness, violates Title VII.
The EEOC filed suit today in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. PMT Corporation; Civil Action No. 0:14-cv-00599)(District Judge David S. Doty) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief that will require PMT Corporation to adopt non-discriminatory hiring practices that comply with federal law and seeks back pay, instatement, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of a class of applicants denied hire as sales representatives due to their gender. On behalf of those were not hired only because of their age, the EEOC seeks instatement and back pay, which would be doubled, since this is a liquidated damages case. The EEOC also seeks back pay and lost benefits, compensatory and punitive damages for PMT's former human resources official.
John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, said, "It appears from our pre-suit investigation -- and we expect to prove in court -- that once Mr. Iversen learned of the EEOC's investigation, he allegedly began a campaign of hostile and threatening behavior to smoke out the source of the complaints. The false theft accusation was clearly intended to dissuade anyone else from doing the right thing and cooperating with EEOC. It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that the EEOC cannot go about its business of combating employment discrimination if we don't step up to protect and defend those who bring their complaints to us."
The EEOC is announcing that anyone with information related to discrimination or retaliation at PMT Corporation is encouraged to contact the EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office at (612) 335-4040.
According to company information, PMT Corporation (www.pmtcorp.com) manufactures and sells medical devices and equipment across the country and internationally. PMT relies on sales representatives to create and facilitate a customer network for its products. PMT's sales representatives are located in regions across the United States.
The EEOC's legal team in its Minneapolis Area Office will conduct the litigation under the management of the agency's Chicago District Office. That office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.