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Former Allegheny County employees claim age discrimination

Two former employees of the Allegheny County Controller's Office have filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the controller fired them because of their political affiliation and because they were older. They say they were replaced by younger employees who did participate in the campaign in 2011.

The two employees, aged 64 and 67 when they were terminated, did not support any candidate for the controller position in the last election. Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, government employees have the right to support the candidate of their choice, or to not support any candidate at all, and cannot be fired to make room for a new office holder's political supporters

This firm is representing the former employees, and attorney Samuel Cordes told reporters recently firing employees who chose not to participate in the political process was a clear violation of First Amendment rights. "The First Amendment gives you a right not to speak," and discrimination laws bar firings based on the exercise of those rights", he said. "You can't come in and eliminate employees to make room for political supporters."

Before they were abruptly terminated, the two employees had been with the Allegheny County Controller's office for many years. One had been working there for eight years and the other had served their community for more than 20 years. According to the lawsuit, at least six of their peers over the age of 50 were furloughed around the same time. They were told that this was for budgetary reasons, but their jobs were later filled by younger individuals.

Employment discrimination is unacceptable and illegal. Loyal public servants should not be subject to their boss's political agenda. Many Pittsburgh readers may not be aware, but government employees are protected against violations of their constitutional rights, including free speech.

Source: Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, "2 claim age bias in county firings," Rich Lord, Nov. 21, 2012.

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