Bucks County, Pa. school hit with age discrimination lawsuit

By Jon Campisi | Sep 6, 2011

A 33-year employee of a Bucks County, Pa. school who is two years short of receiving her pension is now suing her employer, alleging the educational institution is discriminating against her because of her age.

Yardley, Pa. attorney Joanne Rathgeber, of the law firm of Hill Wallack LLP, filed the federal complaint Aug. 31 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Kathleen Collins.

The defendant in the suit is the Bucks County Technical High School located at 610 Wistar Road in Fairless Hills, Pa.

According to the complaint, Collins, 63, who, having been hired in September 1977 and one of the most senior staff members at the school, met a pattern of age discrimination on the part of the defendant beginning with her difficult grasp of computer knowledge.

Collins, who has a K-12 education degree and was tenured, was told in June 2009 that teachers would have to begin submitting their reports via electronic means for that school year, the suit states. Employees who were not that computer literate were allowed to solicit help from those who were more technically proficient, as was the case with Collins.

However, according to the complaint, in mid June of that year, the school’s principal wrote a memo stating that nobody was to help Collins with computer tasks, although the principal, who had computer troubles herself, received her own help.

Training opportunities were provided by the school in the summer of 2009, the suit states, but Collins was unable to attend because she had to undergo surgery.

The following September, Collins was the only teacher who was given laptop computer tests on a regular basis, the suit claims.

In December 2009, Collins attempted to submit to the school secretary a cosmetology student hourly report, and was offered assistance by a coworker, who inadvertently signed the report instead of the plaintiff.

Collins was suspended for one day because of the incident; the coworker, who is younger than Collins, was not disciplined.

Because of the incident, Collins filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the suit states. Shortly after being made aware of the charge, the school reprimanded Collins regarding her cosmetology teacher license.

Collins’ license renewal had not gone through in January 2009 because it became ruined during the mailing process, the suit claims. Collins went as far as to show school administrators the ripped up copy of the license, which she obtained after driving to Harrisburg, but the school did not recognize it because it was not framed.

“In or around March 16, 2010, Plaintiff was forced to take 10 sick days because she was suffering from anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome as a result of the discriminatory acts of Defendant,” the lawsuit states.

While she was on sick leave, the suit claims, the school reprimanded Collins for taking the medical absence, and also for allegedly removing cosmetology mannequins and students records from the school. Collins denied taking the mannequins but said she took the records to complete her required computer reports.

When she returned to school, Collins was given unsatisfactory marks for the entire school year, the suit states. Soon after, Collins became “ill as a result of the stress at school” and was taken out of work under doctors orders until May 2010. She has been physically unable to return to work because of stress and anxiety.

The lawsuit claims that Collins’ employer has violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as well as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Collins seeks judgment against the defendant for compensatory damages in an amount exceeding $150,000, plus back pay, pension and employment benefits, interest, attorney’s fees, the cost of the lawsuit and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05481-CDJ.

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