The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Maui County Wednesday alleging discrimination, saying it didn’t hire a 45-year-old to be a police officer because of his age.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Honolulu contends that Maui County police passed over Lars Sandstrom even though it hired several less qualified candidates as police officers.
Maui County’s corporate counsel said in a statement that the allegations are false and the county is confident it will prevail in court.
The EEOC said Sandstrom had a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience in the military and National Guard when he applied for the job in 2009. He also earned a high score on the written civil service exam.
Another police department later hired Sandstrom, the commission said.
A three-person panel of Maui police officers interviewed Sandstrom when he applied. The EEOC alleges the panel made disparaging, age-related remarks to him, including, "I doubt someone your age could handle the stress of training."
The lawsuit charges that the officers also questioned whether someone Sandstrom’s age could take orders from a younger person.
The commission said that in 2009, Maui police hired at least 28 people who were younger than Sandstrom and who were less qualified on the basis of their education, experience and civil service exam scores.
The lawsuit seeks back pay, benefits and damages for Sandstrom. It asks the court to order the county to create policies and practices that will provide equal employment opportunities for those 40 and older.
"Older workers continue to face discrimination based on age due to negative stereotypes and inaccurate assumptions about their abilities," Anna Park, the EEOC’s regional attorney, said in a statement. "It is important for employers to ensure that such stereotyping does not impact a person’s ability to be employed."