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Home / Complaints / Final Orders / Final Orders 2012 / FCHR Order No. 12-029

FCHR Order No. 12-029

Date of Release: 06/27/2012

STATE OF FLORIDA

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RELATIONS

GLEN COLLINS

 

EEOC Case No. NONE

Petitioner

 

FCHR Case No. 2011-01662

   

DOAH Case No. 11-6195

v.

   

VOLUSIA COUNTY SCHOOLS

 

FCHR Order No. 12-029

Respondent

   

FINAL ORDER DISMISSING PETITION FOR

RELIEF FROM AN UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE

Preliminary Matters

Petitioner Glen Collins filed a complaint of discrimination pursuant to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, Sections 760.01 - 760.11, Florida Statutes (2010), alleging that Respondent Volusia County Schools committed an unlawful employment practice on the bases of Petitioner’s age (DOB: 3-7-58) and retaliation when it terminated Petitioner from employment.

The allegations set forth in the complaint were investigated, and, on October 18, 2011, the Executive Director issued his determination finding that there was no reasonable cause to believe that an unlawful employment practice had occurred.

Petitioner filed a Petition for Relief from an Unlawful Employment Practice, and the case was transmitted to the Division of Administrative Hearings for the conduct of a formal proceeding.

An evidentiary hearing was held by video teleconference at sites in Daytona Beach and Tallahassee, Florida, on February 24, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge John D. C. Newton, II.

Judge Newton issued a Recommended Order of dismissal, dated April 11, 2012.

The Commission panel designated below considered the record of this matter and determined the action to be taken on the Recommended Order.

Findings of Fact

We find the Administrative Law Judge’s findings of fact to be supported by competent substantial evidence.

We adopt the Administrative Law Judge’s findings of fact.

FCHR Order No. 12-029

Page 2

Conclusions of Law

We find the Administrative Law Judge’s application of the law to the facts to result in a correct disposition of the matter.

We note that the Administrative Law Judge concluded that to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination it must be shown “1) that plaintiff is a member of a protected class, i.e., at least forty years of age; 2) the plaintiff is otherwise qualified for the positions sought; 3) the plaintiff was rejected for the position; 4) the position was filled by a worker who was substantially younger than the plaintiff.” Recommended Order, ¶ 38.

We disagree with the content of elements (1) and (4) of this test as set out by the Administrative Law Judge. Accord, Bratcher v. City of High Springs, FCHR Order No. 11-091 (December 7, 2011) and Brown v. SSA Security, Inc., FCHR Order No. 10-062 (August 10, 2010).

With regard to element (1), Commission panels have concluded that one of the elements for establishing a prima facie case of age discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 is a showing that individuals similarly-situated to Petitioner of a “different” age were treated more favorably, and Commission panels have noted that the age “40” has no significance in the interpretation of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. See, e.g., Downs v. Shear Express, Inc., FCHR Order No. 06-036 (May 24, 2006), and cases and analysis set out therein; see also, Boles v. Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, FCHR Order No. 08-013 (February 8, 2008), and cases and analysis set out therein.

Consequently, we yet again note that the age “40” has no significance in the interpretation of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. Accord, e.g., Cox v. Gulf Breeze Resorts Realty, Inc., FCHR Order No. 09-037 (April 13, 2009), Toms v. Marion County School Board, FCHR Order No. 07-060 (November 7, 2007), and Stewart v. Pasco County Board of County Commissioners, d/b/a Pasco County Library System, FCHR Order No. 07-050 (September 25, 2007).

With regard to element (4), while we agree that such a showing could be an element of a prima facie case, we note that Commission panels have long concluded that the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 and its predecessor law, the Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended, prohibited age discrimination in employment on the basis of any age “birth to death.” See Green v. ATC/VANCOM Management, Inc., 20 F.A.L.R. 314 (1997), and Simms v. Niagara Lockport Industries, Inc., 8 F.A.L.R. 3588 (FCHR 1986). A Commission panel has indicated that one of the elements in determining a prima facie case of age discrimination is that Petitioner is treated differently than similarly situated individuals of a “different” age, as opposed to a “younger” age. See Musgrove v. Gator Human Services, c/o Tiger Success Center, et al., 22 F.A.L.R. 355, at 356 (FCHR 1999); accord Lombardi v. Dade County Circuit Court, FCHR Order No. 10-013 (February 16, 2010), Deschambault v. Town of Eatonville, FCHR Order No. 09-039 (May 12, 2009), and Boles, supra. Cf., City of Hollywood, Florida v. Hogan, et al., 986 So. 2d 634 (4th DCA 2008).

FCHR Order No. 12-029

Page 3

We modify accordingly the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusions of law regarding the test for the establishment of a prima facie case of age discrimination.

The errors in the test used by the Administrative Law Judge to establish whether a prima facie case of age discrimination existed are harmless, given the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusion that, “The preponderance of the persuasive evidence proved that Mr. Collins was the casualty of financial difficulties that required the School Board to lay off many people, including Mr. Collins.” Recommended Order, ¶ 45.

In modifying these conclusions of law of the Administrative Law Judge, we conclude: (1) that the conclusions of law being modified are conclusions of law over

which the Commission has substantive jurisdiction, namely conclusions of law stating what must be demonstrated to establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992; (2) that the reason the modifications are being

made by the Commission is that the conclusions of law as stated run contrary to previous Commission decisions on the issue; and (3) that in making these modifications the conclusions of law being substituted are as or more reasonable than the conclusions of law which have been rejected. See, Section 120.57(1)(l), Florida Statutes (2011).

Finally, the Administrative Law Judge seems to conclude that a “whistle blower” complaint brought under Sections 112.3187 – 112.31895, Florida Statutes, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Recommended Order, ¶ 50. We note that the Florida Commission on Human Relations has jurisdiction to investigate these complaints, but not within the context of a case brought pursuant to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. See Section 112.31895, Florida Statutes (2011).

With these corrections and comments, we adopt the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusions of law.

Exceptions

Neither of the parties filed exceptions to the Administrative Law Judge’s Recommended Order.

Dismissal

The Petition for Relief and Complaint of Discrimination are DISMISSED with prejudice.

The parties have the right to seek judicial review of this Order. The Commission and the appropriate District Court of Appeal must receive notice of appeal within 30 days of the date this Order is filed with the Clerk of the Commission. Explanation of the right to appeal is found in Section 120.68, Florida Statutes, and in the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.110.

FCHR Order No. 12-029

Page 4

DONE AND ORDERED this 27th day of June , 2012.

FOR THE FLORIDA COMMISSION ON HUMAN RELATIONS:

Commissioner Billy Whitefox Stall, Panel Chairperson;

Commissioner Gayle Cannon; and

Commissioner Lizzette Romano

Filed this 27th day of June , 2012,

in Tallahassee, Florida.

__________/s/__________________

Violet Crawford, Clerk

Commission on Human Relations

2009 Apalachee Parkway, Suite 100

Tallahassee, FL 32301

(850) 488-7082

Copies furnished to:

Glen Collins

232 Alta Vista Street

DeBary, FL 32713

Volusia County Schools

c/o Erin G. Jackson, Esq.

Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez and Hearing, P.A.

Post Office Box 639

201 North Franklin Street, Suite 1600

Tampa, FL 33602

John D. C. Newton, II, Administrative Law Judge, DOAH

James Mallue, Legal Advisor for Commission Panel

FCHR Order No. 12-029

Page 5

I HEREBY CERTIFY that a copy of the foregoing has been mailed to the above listed addressees this 27th day of June , 2012.

By: _____________________________

Clerk of the Commission

Florida Commission on Human Relations