SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that former Transportation Security Administration air marshals are not entitled to damages if the agency is found liable for age discrimination in an ongoing case.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar gave a mixed ruling, handing modest victories to both sides and ultimately telling the marshals to amend their complaint to state that they seek no compensatory damages beyond what is strictly allowed in age discrimination cases.
"Plaintiffs' argument fails because the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not permit any other type of relief other than judgments compelling employment, reinstatement or promotion, the recovery of unpaid minimum wages or overtime pay, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs," Tigar wrote in his 8-page ruling.
However, Tigar found that two paragraphs the TSA sought to have stricken from any amended complaint were relevant and did not exceed permissible requests under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
"As plaintiffs correctly note, nothing in paragraphs 24 or 28 requests compensatory damages," Tigar said in the ruling. "In fact, plaintiffs explicitly use the word 'non-compensable' to describe these injuries."
The class action, filed in June 2015, claims the TSA closed specifically targeted older marshals when it closed a number of field offices in cities like Cleveland, Tampa, San Diego, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.
The lead plaintiff, who sued under his initials K.H. due to what he claims are matters of national security, claims at least 90 percent of air marshals in the targeted offices are older than 40. Those marshals have been reassigned.
"It is the TSA's intent to force older workers from federal service and it is the TSA's desire that the older workers will in fact quit due to the closure of the field offices and the mandatory office reassignment," K.H. claims.
He says the TSA wants to "purge" its workforce of older air marshals so it can "hire two young field air marshals for every older field air marshal," according to the complaint. The move could affect approximately 300 older air marshals.
In addition, he says, "The TSA is making any potential move to other offices extremely difficult, expensive, unpalatable, and problematic."
K.H. says he suffered severe stress about uprooting his family from Florida and moving to California when the TSA decided to close the Tampa office, where he had worked.
He says he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which failed to act within 180 days.
Tigar gave the plaintiffs 14 days to amend and submit a new complaint that includes only remedies appropriate to age discrimination cases.
The plaintiffs are represented by Nicholas Wieczorek with Morris, Polich & Purdy in Las Vegas, who did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The TSA also did not respond to a request for comment.
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