PHOENIX – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing pest control company Orkin of discriminatory hiring practices in denying jobs to older workers and favoring Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) (Mormon) applicants, particularly returned missionaries. The EEOC also charged that Orkin retaliated against an applicant who complained to the company’s corporate headquarters about the alleged discrimination.
According to the EEOC’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Orkin discriminated during the hiring process against Thomas Kokezas, as well as a class of individuals, based on their age, over 40, and/or religion, non-Mormon. The EEOC’s complaint alleges that Orkin advertised on Craig’s List for a recruiter “to assist in hiring LDS missionaries for seasonal employment” and stating that the summer position was great for “RMs,” which stands for “returned missionaries,” who tend to be in their 20’s.
According to the EEOC, this type of advertising is illegal because it shows a preference for a particular religion and for younger workers. In addition, the EEOC alleges that the discrimination implied by the advertisements became a reality when Orkin filled the summer jobs with applicants in their 20’s, most of whom were LDS/Mormon.
The lawsuit arose out of a charge of discrimination filed by Kokezas, who responded to the Orkin ads on Craig’s List. The EEOC alleges that Orkin’s agent asked Kokezas his age, and then cut the interview short after learning Kokezas was 51. According to the complaint, in a subsequent call, Orkin’s agent admitted that he asked all applicants their age. Kokezas then called Orkin’s corporate office to complain about the company’s discriminatory hiring practices, and was referred to other managers, but was never hired or even allowed to submit an application, which, the suit alleges, was in retaliation for his complaints. According to the EEOC, instead of hiring Kokezas, one of Orkin’s agents, Brandon McNeil, selected a group of applicants who were all in their 20’s and predominantly LDS members.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits age-based employment discrimination against individuals age 40 or older, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of religion, are implicated.
The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for Kokezas and the class of individuals denied employment based on age or religion, an end to any discriminatory employment practices by Orkin, and other equitable relief.