The city of Portland will pay $37,500 each to two former airport workers who sued over alleged age discrimination.

Robert Lang and Stephen Congdon were both maintenance workers at the Portland International Jetport until 2017. Both claimed they were treated differently than younger employees and forced out of their jobs. They filed their complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland in January, and a notice of settlement was filed in the federal docket in August.

A city spokeswoman provided a copy of the settlement agreement this week. That agreement, which is a public document, shows the city did not admit fault or liability, but agreed to pay lost wages and other claims to resolve the dispute. The plaintiffs also agreed to not disparage the city as part of the settlement. Their attorney said she also could not speak about the case.

The complaint alleged that a supervisor targeted both men with performance tests that were different from those given to younger employees, while also asking them repeatedly about their ages and plans for retirement. Their lawyer said at the time the complaint was filed that the city also ordered them to undergo medical exams that went beyond their ability to perform their jobs.

“Mr. Lang and Congdon were asked all sorts of inappropriate and embarrassing questions, including some about their sex lives, their parents’ marriages, their jobs in high school and fears of spiders,” attorney Amy Dieterich wrote in an email in January. “Absolutely none of these questions were relevant to whether Mr. Lang or Mr. Congdon could plow snow or cut grass. The city then used the results of these illegal medical exams to force Mr. Lang and Mr. Congdon out of their jobs.”

The complaint says Lang began working for the jetport in 2003. He was allegedly forced to take a lower-paying job at the Barron Center, which is also owned by the city. He was 68 and living in Buxton at the time the complaint was filed.

Congdon began working at the jetport in 2012 after working at the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease for 17 years. He was fired from the city in January 2017. He was 67 and living in Shapleigh at the time of the complaint.

Both men will receive $37,500 less applicable taxes and fees.

The city also agreed to pay attorneys fees of $60,000 to the firm that represented the plaintiffs – Skelton, Taintor & Abbott in Auburn. Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the money for the payments in the settlement agreement will come from the jetport budget and will not impact the city’s property tax rate.

The plaintiffs also filed complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission. Both received “right-to-sue” letters in November 2018, indicating that they tried to pursue resolution through the commission but were moving ahead to a trial before the process was complete.

The commission reported that it received 204 complaints about age discrimination in fiscal year 2018, which represents about 6 percent of the complaints related to employment.

 


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