An experienced molecular biologist from southeastern Pennsylvania claims in a newly filed civil complaint that the Federal Bureau of Investigation discriminated against him because of his age by not allowing him to participate in the agency’s Visiting Scientist Program.
Michael Gyda, of Drexel Hill, Delaware County, is suing the FBI Crime Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities over what he asserts amounts to age discrimination in the defendants’ failure to hire him for a position in Quantico, VA, which is where the bureau is headquartered.
Gyda, who will turn 56 at the end of this month, and earned a doctoral degree in cell, molecular and developmental biology later in life from the University of Pennsylvania, says he had trouble obtaining a job following graduation in 2007, and instead decided to get into forensic science, with the goal of eventually establishing a fully-accredited, privately held forensic DNA/biology laboratory, the complaint states.
The plaintiff then learned about the FBI’s Visiting Scientist Program, which offers what the suit calls an “exceptionally rare opportunity” for a scientist outside of the forensic sciences to gain entry into the field through participation in qualifying training and experience within an accredited forensic crime laboratory.
In his lawsuit, Gyda asserts that the FBI’s application policy and eligibility criteria with regard to the Visiting Scientist Program make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for people such as himself to get into that line of work.
The main obstacle is the FBI’s policy that an applicant be no more than three years past the awarding of his or her academic degree when he or she applies for a spot with the VSP, something Gyda calls both a “pragmatically and statistically” age-biased requirement.
“Such discrimination that immediately eliminates and excludes without cause an incredibly large number of otherwise qualified applicants from having the opportunity to embark on a productive career in Forensic Science where the need for such service remains great, is, quite frankly, unconscionable to the victims of violent crime and the families thereof awaiting in agony for justice,” the complaint reads. “Despite the fact that there remains an almost insurmountable and growing backlog of DNA casework nationally that urgently requires competent, scientifically precise analysis as a result of the artificially suppressed, miniscule supply of accredited laboratories being overwhelmed by the demand for these services, the FBI LAB, et al, continues to refuse to change its application policy and eligibility criteria with respect to the VSP.”
Gyda claims that the program’s eligibility requirements violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
He says the policy violates his rights as well as the rights of almost all “appropriately-trained scientists over forty (40) years of age.”
The plaintiff, who at this juncture is representing himself, seeks to have a federal judge order the defendants to invite him to participate in the Visiting Scientist Program.
He also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, liquidated damages, counsel fees and other legal and equitable relief.
The complaint was filed on Dec. 24 at federal court in Philadelphia.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-07591-NS.