WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge denied the District of Columbia’s motion to dismiss an age and racial discrimination lawsuit filed by black and Latino workers laid off after the district reorganized its Department of Health.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that 78 black and Latino workers lost their jobs when the health department was absorbed into the newly created D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, while a group of young, white employees were protected by the reduction-in-force (RIF) that came with the reorganization.
The plaintiffs also claim the new department created a new set of positions with qualifications different from the plaintiffs’ jobs, but with identical work.
The District of Columbia argued that the workers had failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, but U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. for the most part disagreed.
He denied the city’s motion to dismiss pertaining to three counts alleged by the plaintiffs, namely race and age discrimination protected by the Equal Protection Clause and under the D.C. Human Rights Act, but granted the motion as it pertains to one count – violations of D.C. personnel regulations that govern municipal RIFs.
“The District argues that this claim is deficient because plaintiffs do not explain how the District’s regulations were violated and fail to allege that they have raised this claim before the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals, which has exclusive original jurisdiction over RIF-related claims,” the judge stated. “The Court agrees.”
The workers alleged that the newly formed Health Care Finance Department “had no legitimate business reason to undertake the RIF.” They claimed the Department “intentionally and maliciously employed racially biased and aged biased criteria to determine the extent to which then existing long term employees were now qualified for ‘new’ positions in which they would be doing essentially the same exact work.”
They claimed the shift resulted in experienced minority and senior employees taking their same jobs for less pay.