EEOC Sues Diagnostics Company Over Alleged Age Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 31 sued Exact Sciences Laboratories in Colorado federal court alleging the company declined to hire a Denver region sales representative based on his age. 

According to a press release by EEOC, it filed the lawsuit after a failed pre-trial settlement phase that stemmed from a claim filed by John Larkin with the agency Nov. 28, 2018. In its lawsuit, the federal agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination laws claims Exact Sciences, which is based out of Wisconsin and produces cancer screening tests including Cologuard, violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act when it declined to hire Larkin in the summer of 2018. 

According to the lawsuit, Larkin applied for an opening in May 2018 as a professional medical sales representative for the Denver west region. The job’s listed minimum requirements were a bachelor’s degree and one year of sales experience in a customer facing role. The preferred qualifications also included experience in a sales role where follow up contact was needed and a background in commissioned, tangible product sales. 

Larkin, who was 49 when he applied, met all those qualifications and had over 12 years of experience as a vaccine sales representative, according to the lawsuit. 

After interviewing for the position, Larkin wasn’t hired. When he wasn’t hired for the role, Larkin was told it was because he didn’t have experience selling medical devices like the ones Exact Sciences produces. Notes taken by the recruiter hiring for the position indicated that he was also not hired due to his higher salary expectations, although Larkin claims he would’ve accepted less pay, according to the filing. 

In email communications with the recruiter, Larkin was told he was not selected because he was “overqualified” for the role and Exact Sciences was “looking for someone more junior that can be trained in the product and stay with the company for years to come.” 

The company hired a woman who was 41 for the role and had less experience than Larkin. She was also offered a higher salary than Larkin had initially asked for or that was discussed at his interview. 

The EEOC’s lawsuit claims Larkin wasn’t hired for the role due to his age in violation of ADEA. It’s asking Exact Sciences to provide training for staff and recruiters on ADEA, affirmative relief (including back pay, lost wages and lost benefits) for Larkin as well as make-whole remedies. The lawsuit is also requesting a court cover EEOCs costs from the case. 

“The ADEA requires employers to provide equal opportunities to job applicants 40 and older as they provide to younger applicants,” said Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, in a press release. “Employers are not free to discriminate based on age, or to refuse hire to applicants over 40 who may be making mid-career job transitions and often bring valuable prior work experience.”

The lawsuit was filed by EEOC’s Denver field office attorney Nathan Foster. In a press release announcing the lawsuit, EEOC noted Colorado is under the jurisdiction of its Phoenix District Office which also covers Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico. 

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