GAO Fights Employee’s Lawsuit

Posted March 7, 2007 at 6:46pm

A class-action lawsuit filed against the Government Accountability Office alleges the agency has repeatedly discriminated against older workers, a claim similar to those made by GAO employees who are seeking to form a union.

But that lawsuit currently is in the midst of a dismissal challenge from GAO officials, who allege the employee who filed it has failed to state a claim and did not exhaust all administrative remedies before going to court, a legal requirement that must be met to sue a federal agency.

Analyst James Moses originally filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in October 2006. In the lawsuit, Moses claims management has discriminated against auditors 45 years of age and older by denying pay increases and promotions while demoting and terminating certain older employees.

Moses is seeking $300,000 per plaintiff in the case, along with back pay and court costs.

“It’s terribly important, because the GAO is the watchdog agency of the government,” Moses’ attorney, Walter Charlton, said of the lawsuit. “The auditors who know the most are the older, experienced folks who know where all the skeletons are.”

A spokesman for the GAO could not be reached for comment by press time.

Filed on behalf of more than 300 GAO employees who are over 45 years old, the lawsuit claims the GAO and its Personnel Appeals Board denied older workers promotions and pay increases based upon their age, race and gender. Court documents point to the restructuring of the agency’s pay structure to a market-based, performance-driven system as one way the agency has discriminated against older employees in recent years.

Moses alleges there is a secretive statistical database system that monitors employee data.

“This system was used to deprive [Moses] and persons similarly situated on an across the board basis of equal treatment under the laws, and to measure and create methodology to achieve the unequal treatment of some employees based upon their race, age and gender,” the lawsuit reads. “Most importantly, the GAO falsely informed the Court that no such system existed.”

In December, GAO attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case, which stipulates that Moses failed to file an intent to sue with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on time and failed to state a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Since then, Moses and his attorney have been fighting to keep the case alive.

On Monday, Moses filed a reply to the court stating that all “statutorily required notices were complete and timely” and the “complaint is well pled.”

“The case is up to the courts,” Charlton said. “I am proceeding vigorously to bring this thing to a conclusion so that justice is done, and my clients get what’s coming to them. And they deserve it.”

Another group of GAO analysts, meanwhile, are in the midst of a unionization effort.

Those analysts claim the agency’s move to change pay structure lowered morale and hurt many older, experienced employees who were denied raises and promotions. Union organizers have said they hope to hold a vote on unionization sometime this spring.