Former energy company employee claims age and nationality discrimination

By Jim Boyle | May 27, 2014

A Lebanese man says his nationality and age played a factor in his demotion and, ultimately,

his termination from a Reading energy company, according to a federal suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Raffi Shahabian, 62, of Sinking Spring, Pa., claims that WorleyParsons Group created a hostile work environment by frequently demoting him and promoting younger, American-born managers. He seeks relief under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and requests compensatory and punitive damages, plus coverage for court fees.

According to the cimplaint, Shahabian worked for Gilbert Commonwealth for 21 years when the company was purchased by WorleyParsons in 2004. In 2008, Shahabian was promoted from senior project manager to manager of nuclear projects. However, the complaint says, corporate literature hinted that hiring policies would begin to lean toward younger candidates.

In 2010, the complaint states, WorleyParsons hired Chris Ashton as senior vice president of eastern operations, who reportedly espoused a philosophy of "Out with the old, in with the new." The plaintiff says that in one incident, his direct manager said he had to justify to Ashton why Sharabian remained in his position while newer people were waiting in the wings.

The court documents say that in August 2011, Sharabian's new manager had been directed to recruit new blood to reinvigorate an aging workforce. When the manager pushed back, saying he needed to keep the experienced supervisors, he was terminated in December 2011 and replaced by Walt McFarland, the lawsuit says.

When McFarland was promoted again in March 2012, Sharabian was passed over to fill the empty administrator office despite glowing reviews in his last performance evaluation, the suit claims. Instead, the general manager of nuclear projects position went to Ray Pearsall, who had previously reported to the plaintiff.

As the new supervisor, Pearsall allegedly created a hostile work environment by isolating Sharabian, excluding him from group nights out during business trips, encouraging advancements for other employees and, in April 2012, placing Sharabian on a performance improvement plan.

According to the court documents, in May 2012 Sharabian was removed from his position and replaced by a younger, American-born employee. His demotion to senior project manager included an office relocation to a shared workspace with a younger employee. Finally, in November 2012, Sharabian's employment was terminated.

The plaintiff is represented by Carol Mager and James Duttera of Console Law Offices.

The federal case ID number is 5:14-cv-02958-JS.

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