The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against American Samoa, claiming the U.S. territory's government discriminated against older workers.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hawaii, is the first time the EEOC is suing the government of American Samoa.
Evelyn Langford, director of the territory's department of human resources, conducted a meeting in 2009 where she told employees that those 50 and older should retire to make room for the younger generation, according to the complaint. The EEOC claims those who did not retire were reassigned to undesirable positions.
Langford and other American Samoa government officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The lawsuit seeks relief on behalf of Eseneiaso Liu, 61, and a class of other workers who may have been reassigned or discharged because of their age. Liu started as a clerk in 1968 and in 2004, she became chief of the personnel division.
Around January 2009, the governor of American Samoa made a speech "encouraging our territory's top-level career service employees to take up retirement or move to the private sector" and that by freeing up those positions jobs can be provided "for our children returning from school," the lawsuit notes.
According to the complaint, about after Langford's meeting Liu was forced into a newly created position that left her without an office and parking space: "Defendants assigned Ms. Liu's prior job duties, private office and parking space to an individual under 40 years of age, significantly younger than Ms. Liu." She is still employed by American Samoa.
American Samoa violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers who are over the age of 40, the EEOC said. The agency filed the lawsuit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.